The alternators (the paint colored "electrical" ends) on these units were replaced in the early 1980's with newer more efficient models, but since the diesels were still the same, the available power output didn't change by much. In 1989-91 the generators were replaced with much larger new machines, and later upgrades mean that the plant routinely puts out 380 kw which is still not enough nowadays.
Construction on the new power plant arch and structure for the elevated station began in the 99-00 summer, with interior work continuing through the winter. The new plant has 3 3512 machines rated for 1025 kw at sea level (750kw at altitude) at 277/480v...almost McMurdo size, plus a fourth "peaking unit," a 3412 good for 250-300 kw at altitude. The unit is scheduled to go on line in January 2001. At that time, a temporary feeder will be run to the existing plant (connecting where #1 engine does now) and a heat exchanger will be installed, all this to backfeed power and heat to the existing station.
Since I'm more than a little bit proud of my design of the 1989-92 upgrade of the current power plant, as well as the way it turned out, here are a couple of my Caterpillar hero shots and a few more technical details and more recent photos. Have a look, by February 2001 this will all be history!Back to 1977, here's the switchgear end of the plant in the old days. The breaker marked in red is the feeder to the summer/ emergency camp. The old construction camp was not interconnected with the dome, so when we arrived we expected to operate two power plants during the summer. After the fire, one of the new projects included running a cable between here and the relocated summer camp power plant so that we could power that place from here. We also successfully tested backfeeding the dome from one of the 100 kw summer camp generators.
There were a few control circuits in the switchgear that did not seem to work properly. One of these had automatically decided to dump the CO2 bottles the year before. Part of the 1989 upgrade was to make these gremlins go away...but the proprietary circuit boards in the regulators and governors will never make this stuff foolproof in the middle of the winter when the vendor rep can't make it in!
For many years starting in the 80's a lift station was used to get the sewage to new pits via above-snow piping. The lift station was a real maintenance headache from the beginning; the earliest unit couldn't deal with the tampons used by the rapidly growing female population. In 96-97 CRREL carved a new utilidor tunnel for the sewer directly out of the snow, eliminating the need for the lift station, but I'm sure that the distinctive and unforgettable utilidor smell hasn't changed.