Letters – 2003-10-01
Power Where it Matters I was just reading your Sept. Editor's Viewpoint about the blackout and where, in our society, uninterruptible power sources are prioritized (TV). Watching the coverage that night, my wife and I were struck, like you, that things like hospitals, water supplies and subways were crippled, yet we still had endless TV coverage with chattering anchormen.
Power Where it Matters
I was just reading your Sept. Editor’s Viewpoint about the blackout and where, in our society, uninterruptible power sources are prioritized (TV). Watching the coverage that night, my wife and I were struck, like you, that things like hospitals, water supplies and subways were crippled, yet we still had endless TV coverage with chattering anchormen.
But we both chuckled, when after hearing about dark hospitals, stuck elevators, spoiling food, unfunctioning plumbing and other dire inconveniences, a local news guy said, “If you find yourself in real trouble due to heat or dehydration, go to a mall. They will have power.”
The grid may have collapsed, but when the going gets tough, go shopping.
Randy Amborn, Trane, St. Paul
Alan Levitt’s findings for diesel power plants—”Overlooked Essentials” ( CSE 09/03 p. 9)—may be typical for his area but not for ours.
Per his first consideration: It is not cost-effective to provide a generator for fuel pumps. We normally place the generator on a sub-base tank with the engine fuel pump piped directly to the tank on single generator installations. On multiple generator installations or where a sub-base tank can’t be used, a day tank is installed in the generator skid and connected directly to the engine fuel pump. The day tank provides at least two hours of fuel at full load. It is monitored by a level control which starts remote pumps connected to generator power. The level is set to maintain day tanks at no less than half-full.
Per his second consideration: Gauges should definitely be checked. We always specify an annunciator with fuel level and fuel leak alarms. Setpoint is checked as part of annunciator commissioning. Whether base tanks or remote tanks, the level is set to allow the owner sufficient reserve to secure fuel, dependent on individual circumstances. A routine check of invoices against alarm point should indicate drift. The dipstick can then be used for confirmation.
Per his third consideration: One of the leading causes of a generator failing to start is lack of maintenance and regular exercising. It is false economy to turn off the exerciser clock, but I have seen it done. Actual exerciser controlled startup should be monitored and logged. We always recommend that our customers with limited staff secure a maintenance agreement with the manufacturer.
I believe that we need accurate and complete recommendations on design and installation of generators in the different climates and conditions around the country. I would be most interested in how other parts of the country handle details like the above issues.
W. M. Luffey, P.E., DeSoto County Electric, Inc., Horn Lake, MISS.