Power Plant Upgrade 1989-90

power to the beakers

I'm standing in front of our new #1 engine in February 1990. During the 1989-90 season we installed the new radiators and plenum, most of the new piping system, and rewired all 3 switchgear cubicles. We got a late start due to bad weather and an asbestos survey (none was found that would affect this project) so we ended up deferring the replacement of the other two engines until the following seasons. During the 1990 winter this engine operated most of the time, except for scheduled PM's when the dreaded power conservation calls had to go out.

This engine was successfully load-tested to 350 kw with the help of a load bank; the power output was limited by the cooling system and high exhaust temperatures. Of course our station load design criteria was more like 250 kw so the project was considered successful. Part of the problem with the engine cooling was that my design had to accommodate a lot of extra piping to allow for switching back and forth between new and old engines. Of course cats at PoleI never envisioned that "temporary" condition would have to remain for a winter. I wasn't around for the completion of the project, but ASA did a fine job wrapping it up the following seasons. Actually the project extended for 2 more summers--in 1990-91 engine #3 was replaced, and in 1991-92 engine #2 went in. One reason for this was that it was time to replace the water tank, which could only be done while the center unit was removed. Later on ASA did a more thorough rework of the glycol systems, although they ran up against the same problem I did--the utilidor glycol heating piping to the station was way too small to accommodate ANY fresh air makeup to the buildings.

Meanwhile, the engines were being "souped up" with bigger turbos and you turn me on other stuff to provide MORE POWER to all of those buildings on the other side of the runway that no one had thought of in 1988 when we started this project. There was a 4160 volt distribution system to the dark sector, as 480 wouldn't make it that far. And the proliferation of manual transfer switches was moved to the substation building #67 in the dome where we used to park the Trackmaster. And then there were the wet silencers that were needed to provide heat for the original Rodriguez well. Along with coordinator Mike Patterson, ASA mechanical engineer (and 1994 sm) Janet Phillips, Chris Rock, and our 1977 w/o Bill Koleto was heavily involved in making all this stuff happen successfully.

On the right is another look with a bit more of the engine and a bit less of me. The late 90s winterovers Joel and Robert have better pictures of this place as it was finished, but the neatest ones I've seen are in the video that Caterpillar used in a CNN ad for a few years in the mid '90's.

At left, 1990 w/o power plant mechanic Roger Carr throws the breaker to put #1 on line. This is what the switchgear looked like as I left it; in addition to the design, I did most of the panel wiring plus the functional checkout. One thing you see in this picture that I did NOT think of (but I helped them do it) was to raise the synchronization panel you see above Roger's head. Up until about 1988 it was down lower and a real head knocker.

the heat is on more power to the beakers

A couple of later views of the place: on the right, Joel Michalski's picture of Thom Miller, the 1999 power plant mechanic, in front of generator #2. And at left is a photo from Robert Thompson (2000 w/o doctor) of the other end of the engines, showing the jacket water heat exchangers that provided heat to station buildings and the old snow melter. The wet silencers (heat exchanger/ "mufflers" which collected heat from the hot exhaust gas) were in the "condo" on the roof. These used a separate (non-toxic) propylene glycol loop to provide heat to the original Rodwell.

Of course, by the time these pictures were taken, the new power plant was already under construction. When it was completed, this old facility was used only to backfeed power (and heat) to the older dome facilities. Engine #2 was removed, the waste heat from the new plant was piped to a new heat exchanger that replaced the engine #2 exchangers, and electricity was fed to the dome facilities through the engine #2 circuit breaker. This was the configuration as of 2005, and the two remaining engines still served as an emergency power plant...until 2006 when the final connections from the new emergency power plant in the elevated station were completed. But...this plant had one last hurrah...on 6 April 2006, the new power plant suffered a brief outage. Another generator was started quickly, but the transformer supplying power to the old dome power plant (which still fed power to remaining dome facilities and the fuel arch) failed. As a result, there was no way to pump fuel in the new power plant day tanks. Until 2006 w/o power plant mechanic Dennis Calhoun fired up generator #1 and put it online to the dome switchgear for the last time. It was online for about 80 hours until the NPP fuel tanks were filled and the transformer/ breaker wiring issues were fixed.

The following winter (2007) this facility was being made to go away to make room for some of the new cargo storage aka logistics arch which would be established in the old biomed, power plant and garage arches.