Monday, April 2, 2012

Hidden York: Power generation and distribution facilities

The chimneystack is York's most widely ignored major landmark. Yet at the base of that chimney is enough heavy machinery to generate and distribute 10 MW of electrical power (about half of the university's maximum power needs), plus all of York's heating and cooling. Without it, we would all literally freeze -- or swelter -- in the dark.

Because the university's facilities department wants to play a role in our new electrical engineering program (especially our planned Power specialization), I had the rare opportunity to take a tour of the generation, distribution, and steam generation facilities. Many thanks to Brad Cochrane and Gary Gazo for showing me around. Pictures after the jump.
 (Click for larger pictures.)

Power distribution substation: this is a bank of 13.8 kV circuit breakers. The room is filled with a noticeable heat and loud 60 Hz hum, reflecting the huge currents passing through. The orange bag on the right contains an arcflash safety suit.
On each side is a gas turbine power generator, 5 MW each. Basically these are jet engines, but instead of pushing an airplane, they spin a turbine. The hot jet exhaust is redirected to the boiler, which produces all the steam that heats everything on campus. Fun fact: these jets have Top-Gun-style afterburners (called duct burners) to produce extra steam as needed.
The control room. The old-school switches and dials are mostly for the cooling system -- power systems are controlled from the modern workstations in the foreground.

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