January 10, 2024

Chilean Power Plant Implements IRISS Custom Inspection Solutions

Forces of Globalization encourage virtually all industries to remain competitive through innovation and a quest for efficiency and reliability.


by Hugo Pereira, VP LATAM Business Development at IRISS, Inc.


Forces of Globalization encourage virtually all industries to remain competitive
through innovation and a quest for efficiency and reliability. Many have realized that
the ability to conduct safe maintenance inspections of their electrical infrastructure
assets can lead to competitive differentiation and the Power Generation sector is no
exception. It is critical to detect potential equipment defects using technology so we
can better understand asset health and schedule maintenance tasks accordingly.

Every year, many electricians are hospitalized, and some die as a result of work-related
accidents often because they are assigned tasks that require them to access
energized equipment. Regulatory Safety Organizations and End User Health and
Safety Departments around the world are implementing standards where workers
are not allowed to open electrical panels for maintenance activities unless they are in
safe working conditions and personnel have been thoroughly trained on all risks and
hazards involved in the work task.

IRISS was created out of recognition of the needs of the global electrical
maintenance industry. Our mission is to exceed client expectations by continuing to
set the industry standard for products, design services and support for the reliability
and maintenance industries through innovative solutions that leverage our unique
industry experience.

IRISS is a company that is committed to the Power Generation industry,
actively collaborating in the improvement and pursuit of global competitiveness.
IRISS offers all the experience and technology required to perform a safe, efficient
and reliable diagnosis of pneumatic, mechanical and electrical systems. We are
pleased to have collaborated with the substantial improvement of processes for
safe inspections of energized electrical assets with Colbún, a major Power
Generation facility operator in Chile.

Colbún has over 3.8 Gigawatts of installed capacity in Chile and Peru
generating over 16 GWh of electricity supply in 2017. Colbún’s twenty-five Power
plants are a combination of primarily hydroelectric and Thermoelectric sites with a
complement of smaller solar and wind installations. The Neuhenco I powerplant is a
thermoelectric site that is 368MW and went into operation in 1999. The complex
also includes Neuhenco II (398MW) and Neuhenco III (108MW).

An initial meeting with the client allowed us to present our solutions for
safe inspections of the energized electrical systems including LV Switchgear,
Panelboards, Transformers, MV Substation Switchgear and high voltage lines at
Neuhenco I. Our goal was to reduce inspection costs and manpower requirements
while ensuring 100% personnel safety during Electrical Inspections. In
addition, we recommended increasing the inspection frequency in order to detect
potential failure warning signs earlier thus preventing unscheduled downtime. In
short, the project goals were to:

  • Provide opportunity for Better Maintenance Planning (reduce emergency repairs)
  • Prevent Unscheduled Equipment Downtime via early defect detection of hot spots
    and loose connections via IR inspection, visual inspection for water/dust/pest
    issues, UV inspection for Corona and Ultrasound inspection for arcing, tracking
    and corona (Partial Discharge)
  • Inspect the energized systems with safety and in accordance with the most
    stringent safety guidelines in the world (NFPA 70E – 2018 edition)
  • Reduce the cost of labor for thermographic inspections (no panel removal, reinstallation,
    no need to wear cumbersome PPE during inspections, single-man
    inspection versus team inspections)
  • Reduce the risk of Maintenance Induced Failures (by not physically disturbing
    equipment during the inspection process)
  • Reduce the risk of accidents while performing maintenance inspection tasks (no
    panel removal means no exposure to energized components)

By walking the site and inspecting the equipment in question, we were able to come
up with recommendations for custom IR windows for the critical electrical assets at
the facility. This included the following:

  • 4pc. CAP-ENV Custom size 20” x 16” with Partial Discharge Sensor for 2 Generators
  • 4pc. CAP-CT Custom size 20” x 7” with Partial Discharge Sensor for critical Motor
    and Fan panels
  • 6pc. CAP-ENV Custom size 12” x 8.5” with Partial Discharge Sensor for other
  • 1pc. CAP-ENV Custom size 24” x 10” with Partial Discharge Sensor for Excitation

All of these units included Partial Discharge Sensors integrated into the Maintenance
Inspection window that allows a handheld ultrasound detector to be
plugged in and listen for signs of partial discharge within the equipment enclosure.

Custom-sized windows were chosen to reduce the total installation cost and
ensure that a single window would be sufficiently sized to see all the possible
targets of interest in the equipment.

20”x16” CAP-ENV Windows installed on Generator Panels

Windows were installed on the lower portion of doors to give viewing of
Incoming Connections

Windows installed on Equipment Doors before remounting to the Switchgear

Switchgear door remounted with custom 20”x7” CAP-CT window fitted


The initial project implementation was done in 2018 and was well received by the
maintenance team. According to Jorge Astudillo, Manager of Operational Support,
“The custom infrared and ultrasound inspection products from IRISS were exactly
what we needed. Before, we had several pieces of critical equipment where
we were not comfortable performing energized inspections because of the risk of
opening the doors. We had looked at other solutions but they were all too small
to really see properly the connections and possible failure points. With the IRISS
products, we were able to install a single large format solution on each piece of
equipment and can now do the inspections any time we need without worrying about
the safety of our personnel. Having the ability to connect our handheld ultrasound
detector to the built-in sensor is an added bonus.”

Based on the initial success and customer satisfaction, further implementation of
IRISS maintenance inspection windows was also done at Neuhenco II in February
2019 and other Colbún sites are currently in the planning stages.