Soft starts support long-term infrastructure development

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A small East Anglian electrical engineering firm playing a big role in long-term infrastructure developments throughout the Middle East is fulfilling two major water pumping contracts

Softstart UK is building 1.3MW soft starts for five giant irrigation pumps being used in a huge Ministry of Water agricultural development scheme in northern Iraq, and six 3.3MW units for foul water booster pumps in Egypt’s El-Abour Sanitation Project.

Stuart Harvey, Managing Director of Softstart UK, says: “Reliable food production and sanitation are absolutely fundamental for large-scale economic development. We are helping put in systems with life expectancies of 25–50 years, from which whole generations of people will benefit enormously as they build a modern, sustainable and secure standard of living.” All the soft starts will be certified by Lloyds before dispatch from the UK and are due for installation and commissioning in September and October. The Iraqi units are fitted with load brake disconnects and fuses and line and bypass vacuum contactors, while the Egyptian ones also have load brake earth switches and power factor correction.

A soft start briefly reduces the load and torque in an electric motor during start-up. This contains the mechanical and electrodynamics stresses on the motor and associated equipment to prevent surges and spikes resonating through the electrical distribution network. It also cuts shock loads in the driven mechanical equipment, while in water distribution pipework, a soft start will reduce pressure surges and air entrapment which in large systems can lead to devastating water hammer effects.

Combined, the two orders have a value in excess of £500,000, which Stuart sees as a useful contribution to the local economy. He says: “Great Yarmouth is seeing its revenue from North Sea oil and gas support services decline, while the traditional fishing and farming are far from as profitable as they once were. Fortunately we are well placed for modern manufacturing to flourish. We have technical expertise in abundance, and an independent enterprising spirit, while proximity to Felixstowe and a modern road and rail network aid exporting.”

In fact, Stuart reckons Softstart UK is part of a very small elite; there are only six or seven companies in the world that can design, build and supply medium voltage soft starts. He says: “Most of our business is for much more modest equipment – and delivered in smaller order sizes. We are seeing a definite growth in our domestic activity as manufacturing is becoming increasingly important in the UK economy. However the big overseas orders are always exciting, with their need for technical excellence and on-going support.”

To find out more about soft start technology from Softstart UK, visit the website at

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