Monthly Archives: February 2011

Engineer’s Week

Happy Engineer’s Week!

As the 60’th Celebration of Engineer’s Week comes to a close (official Engineer’s Week is February 20-26, 2011, according to the National Engineers Week Foundation [NEWF]), I was reminded this morning that Engineer’s Week is about more than just recognizing a slice of industry.  It’s about celebrating what engineers do for others.  The front page at the NEWF web site is covered with awards to engineers from various groups (NASA, National Academy of Engineers, etc.) that recognize individual engineers “whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society”.  Engineer’s Week is about reaching out and encouraging more people to get involved, and to be part of the solutions to the problems we face.  Engineers don’t just sit on the sidelines and wait for someone else to ‘take care of things’ – they are actively involved in making the world a better place.

You don’t have to dig very deep on the NEWF website to find ways to participate.  Their “get involved” page lists 50 different examples and recommendations for reaching out to others, helping to solve the worlds problems and encouraging younger people to get interested in science and engineering.  There are links to volunteer opportunities with organization such as Engineers Without Borders, Mathcounts, and local schools and science centers.   It’s worth a look.

And don’t let something like an engineering degree stop you from participating.  I know many, many people who do more engineering than I do who don’t have that piece of paper.  Engineering is more a process for solving problems than anything else.  For me, it’s about helping others to be more efficient – more efficient equipment, more efficient data collection, more efficient reporting systems.  Getting more done with less effort.  Maybe I’m just lazy at heart… but my pursuit of leisure time sure keeps me busy!

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Improving GT Availability

This month’s Power Engineering magazine highlights one of the best papers of the 2010 Power Gen Conference.

See page 54 in Power Engineering, February 2011.

The whole paper can be found at PowerGenWorldwide in PDF form.

The paper gives details around MHI’s experience with increasing the availability of the M501F, but the information could be extrapolated to apply to all industrial gas turbines, and other equipment as well.

The highlights of the paper include planning for gas turbine performance from four difference angles of attack:

  1. Design
  2. Scheduled Maintenance
  3.  OEM Support
  4. Continuous Monitoring

Better designs, which include planning for maintenance, can lead to less downtime.  Especially when the designs lead to increased part longevity.  Time between repairs and/or replacements is on the rise as better coatings and materials are available.

Using experienced crews and well-tested procedures for your scheduled maintenance can lead to shorter outages overall, so your plant can get back on line – or at least available to be on line – faster.

OEM support, especially for newer designs, can improve troubleshooting efforts and may lead to upgrades in parts or services which further reduce down time in the future – especially if the upgrade means a part can operate longer between inspections.

Continuous monitoring – my personal favorite – can lead to finding problems when they’re small, and fixing small problems with a short outage – instead of waiting to find big problems later, requiring extensions on major outages if additional parts need to be ordered.

Monitoring technology is improving every year.  Neural net, or “smart” software can learn how a plant operates, then detect small abnormalities before alarm limits – or even warning limits – are reached.  Expertise is still needed to find the source of the abnormalities and solutions for getting back to ‘normal’ – but overall these new systems are effectively reducing downtime – leading to significant improvements in equipment availability.

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Integrating Renewables

Thinking about solar power and the current concerns regarding the increased costs of integrating wind power into the grid… Germany is learning first hand how grids designed for central power generation may not be adequate for significant distributed generation.

See the following article in the NewScientist:

Solar Power Could Crash Germany’s Grid

Plant and Grid operators are finding that there are minimum generation requirements on the lines.  You can’t turn a large coal fired boiler down below a safe minimum load, and if you take too many plants offline to allow solar and wind to cover loads during the middle of the day, the grid may not be able to recover when the sun sets and the air goes still – all at the same time people are heading home, re-energizing their homes and firing up the oven for dinner.

Once again it comes back to sufficient energy storage capabilities on the grid.  Whether that means pumped storage, hydrogen production, geothermal heat wells, fly-wheels or something altogether new is still a question for debate.  Maybe a mix of all the above technologies, along with a smattering of electric car batteries will be the answer. 

One thing is for certain, most have us have gotten used to having clean, reliable power.  I don’t think we’ll be willing to give it up anytime soon.

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Power Generation to Get Much Cleaner

It looks like the love affair with wind may be waning.  Will the next big push be for solar?


From RenewablesBiz

Power Generation to Get Much Cleaner

EEI and Solar Group Heads Foresee Fleet Transformation

Martin Rosenberg | Feb 10, 2011

The energy generation fleet of America is going to be cleaner in decades to come, one industry leader predicts. And solar will be playing an increasingly important role, according to the head of a solar association.

Thomas Kuhn, president and chief executive of the Edison Electric Institute, said, “We want a cleaner, more modern energy fleet by 2021,” The EEI represents the nation’s investor-owned utilities. Kuhn made his comments at the U.S. Energy Association State of the Energy Industry Forum in Washington earlier this month.

Transforming energy generation in America, Kuhn said, “will be expensive but it won’t have a major effect on ratepayers.” That is because the utility sector is already dealing with a rising tide of expenditures.

Last year, utilities spent more than $80 billion in capital expenditures on generation, transmission and distribution, Kuhn said. That doubled the amount spent in 2004. “We have to raise a lot of capital.”

Kuhn will be speaking about the technological, financial and regulatory trends shaping the future of the industry at the EnergyBiz Leadership Forum in Washington, Feb. 27 – March 1.

“We are going to see a much cleaner, modernized energy fleet,” Kuhn said. “We have a vision for the next decade.” While as much as one-fifth of the coal fleet will be retired in the next decade, clean coal will still have a role to play. “Coal is the backbone of the electric system,” Kuhn said.

Rhone Resch, president and chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, predicted that solar is about to get much more competitive in price with conventional forms of generation like coal-fired and natural gas fueled generation.

For the rest of the article, visit: Power Generation to Get Much Cleaner | RenewablesBiz.

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State of the Union 2011

Interesting to note that “Efficient Natural Gas” is considered a Clean Energy Source.  How do you know if your facilitiy is “Efficient”? Visit the link below to download the actual fact sheet PDF.



From: State of the Union 2011 Fact Sheet: Clean Energy Standard (CES) | Alliance to Save Energy.

State of the Union 2011 Fact Sheet: Clean Energy Standard (CES)

white house
Author(s): Miriam Berg
The White House Office of Public Engagement released this clean energy sources (CES) fact sheet, “President Obama’s Plan to Win the Future by Producing More Electricity Through Clean Energy,” the night of Obama’s Jan. 25, 2011, State of the Union address.

According to the fact sheet, a global race is underway to develop and manufacture clean energy technologies, and the United States is competing with other countries that are playing to win. The United States has the most dynamic economy in the world, but Americans can’t expect to win the future by standing still. That’s why, in his State of the Union address, Obama proposed an ambitious but achievable goal of generating 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

Meeting that target will position the United States as a global leader in developing and manufacturing cutting-edge, clean energy technologies. It will ensure continued growth in the renewable energy sector, building on the progress made in recent years. And it will spur innovation and investment in U.S. energy infrastructure, catalyzing economic growth and creating American jobs.


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