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Young Workers, Smart Grid

caltrek

GROUP: Members

POSTS: 0

Report this May. 01 2009, 8:03 pm

"Many in the utility industry worry that the most vulnerable part of the power system is its work force, as a wave of retirements is depleting the supply of linemen and other craftsmen who keep the lights on.

A historic jump in the number of power-related jobs is boosting demand for classes such as one called Power Production and Operation at Centralia College in Centralia, Wash.

'Many people who went to work in the electric power industry were there for 25, 30, 40 years,' instructor Rulon Crawford says. 'Now that they are leaving the industry, there's a ton of opportunity for this generation that's coming along.'

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers says nearly half its members nationwide are up for retirement in the next few years, and in response, Centralia College has formed the Center of Excellence for Energy Technology to train young workers like 19-year-old Haley Keithan - one of a handful of women in this class.

She comes from an energy family - her dad worked for the local coal-fired plant. But, she says, 'I want to go into more renewable resources, more so than coal or oil or anything like that.'

That's a common theme in the Pacific Northwest. Like many states, Oregon and Washington require local utilities to boost the portion of the power they produce from renewables. Travel up the Columbia River, which has long supplied this area with cheap electrical power, and you can see and hear what's luring students into the energy field.

Wind turbines seem to be sprouting from every hilltop, and if you get close, you can hear them spinning lazily in a light wind. This is what's drawing students like A.J. Quackenbush to Columbia Gorge Community College, on the Oregon side of the river.

Quackenbush is a muscular, curly-haired student in the renewable energy technology program. Students like him may be keen on renewables, but this program is meant to prepare them to work on the aging transmission grid as well. Quackenbush says he might end up expanding the system that connects those hilltop turbines to power-hungry cities: 'I know there's been a lot of talking about installing a transmission superhighway, and I think having the chance to work on something like that would be pretty fulfilling as well.'

Local utilities here say that, at times, they are already producing more wind power than the electrical grid can handle. That means the viability of those wind turbines may depend on the eagerness of these students to help upgrade the electrical grid.

Training Young Workers On Antiquated Equipment

But at a training facility in Vancouver, Wash., you can see just how resistant the old electrical grid is to change, and why it's so difficult to train new workers in this field.

Two apprentice linemen have just made their first mistake as they try to replace a huge glass insulator 30 feet up on a telephone pole at the Bonneville Power Administration's Technical Training Center. On the ground, instructor Craig Froh razzes them, as he sees they have lost their focus and let the wire slip from their grasp. Froh is a burly utility guy, right down to the sticker on his hard hat that reads, 'Drink til she's cute.'

'Now we're going to have fun,' he shouts up to the apprentices, as they struggle to correct their mistake.

In real life, the wires these guys are working on would be live with 115,000 volts. Workers spend three to four years working as paid apprentices before they become journeymen, going through a ritual that dates back many decades. This is why people here refer to this business as a 'craft' ? while it doesn't require a college degree, it is both dangerous and arcane.

In another part of the facility, 31-year-old apprentice Zack Banks is deciphering a roomful of dials and getting the juice flowing again during an imaginary blackout. Bells ding and meters flash in a central control room that's meant to replicate a real, working substation. With its old-style dials and clicking alarms, this place looks a lot more like a World War II-era submarine than a key node on the power system. Banks dials up the trainer in the exercise - using a rotary telephone.

Bonneville hopes to get federal funding to help build a smart grid for the region. If that happens, workers here could someday be staring at computer screens and digital interfaces. But for now, the next generation of electrical workers will have to get started on some very 20th century gear.

NPR

The existing grid also is not ready for a future that includes more wind and solar power. That's because keeping a grid running is a delicate balancing act - to avoid outages, the amount of power you put in must equal the amount taken out.

So the electricity you're using right now was created just a few seconds ago - most likely at a coal or gas-fired plant that an operator can ramp up or down to meet demand. But renewable energy sources, like wind or solar power, don't work like that.

"On [some] days, you would be lucky to predict wind at 10 percent accuracy," Mansoor says. With difficult-to-predict demand on one side and difficult-to-predict production on the other, it could be almost impossible to manage the grid manually in the future. That's where something called the smart grid comes in.

Digitizing The Grid

In its most basic form, the smart grid adds a computer cable to the electrical wire. With data points all along the system, computers can then manage the grid much faster and more efficiently than humans could.

Boulder, Colo., is set to become the first U.S. city with a smart grid. The local utility, Xcel Energy, has upgraded much of its network in the city and is in the process of installing new meters that also will give customers and the utility a lot more information about how and when energy is used.

Eventually, Boulder customers will be able to log onto a Web site at work and change settings for appliances and their heating system. And the utility will be able to tap into electricity stored in customers' plug-in electric hybrid cars during peak demand times.

The smart grid "is like taking us from the rotary dial phone to the iPhone overnight," says Sandy Simon, director of utility innovations and SmartGridCity at Xcel Energy.

Not only that, but it's expensive - more than $100 million just in this city of 100,000 people. Imagine every home, business, utility pole and substation in the country, and you start to get a sense of how much this undertaking will cost.

NPR

blankenship

GROUP: Members

POSTS: 1632

Report this May. 01 2009, 8:31 pm

Quote (caltrek @ April 30 2009, 9:03 pm)
"Many in the utility industry worry that the most vulnerable part of the power system is its work force, as a wave of retirements is depleting the supply of linemen and other craftsmen who keep the lights on.

A historic jump in the number of power-related jobs is boosting demand for classes such as one called Power Production and Operation at Centralia College in Centralia, Wash.

'Many people who went to work in the electric power industry were there for 25, 30, 40 years,' instructor Rulon Crawford says. 'Now that they are leaving the industry, there's a ton of opportunity for this generation that's coming along.'

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers says nearly half its members nationwide are up for retirement in the next few years, and in response, Centralia College has formed the Center of Excellence for Energy Technology to train young workers like 19-year-old Haley Keithan - one of a handful of women in this class.

She comes from an energy family - her dad worked for the local coal-fired plant. But, she says, 'I want to go into more renewable resources, more so than coal or oil or anything like that.'

That's a common theme in the Pacific Northwest. Like many states, Oregon and Washington require local utilities to boost the portion of the power they produce from renewables. Travel up the Columbia River, which has long supplied this area with cheap electrical power, and you can see and hear what's luring students into the energy field.

Wind turbines seem to be sprouting from every hilltop, and if you get close, you can hear them spinning lazily in a light wind. This is what's drawing students like A.J. Quackenbush to Columbia Gorge Community College, on the Oregon side of the river.

Quackenbush is a muscular, curly-haired student in the renewable energy technology program. Students like him may be keen on renewables, but this program is meant to prepare them to work on the aging transmission grid as well. Quackenbush says he might end up expanding the system that connects those hilltop turbines to power-hungry cities: 'I know there's been a lot of talking about installing a transmission superhighway, and I think having the chance to work on something like that would be pretty fulfilling as well.'

Local utilities here say that, at times, they are already producing more wind power than the electrical grid can handle. That means the viability of those wind turbines may depend on the eagerness of these students to help upgrade the electrical grid.

Training Young Workers On Antiquated Equipment

But at a training facility in Vancouver, Wash., you can see just how resistant the old electrical grid is to change, and why it's so difficult to train new workers in this field.

Two apprentice linemen have just made their first mistake as they try to replace a huge glass insulator 30 feet up on a telephone pole at the Bonneville Power Administration's Technical Training Center. On the ground, instructor Craig Froh razzes them, as he sees they have lost their focus and let the wire slip from their grasp. Froh is a burly utility guy, right down to the sticker on his hard hat that reads, 'Drink til she's cute.'

'Now we're going to have fun,' he shouts up to the apprentices, as they struggle to correct their mistake.

In real life, the wires these guys are working on would be live with 115,000 volts. Workers spend three to four years working as paid apprentices before they become journeymen, going through a ritual that dates back many decades. This is why people here refer to this business as a 'craft' ? while it doesn't require a college degree, it is both dangerous and arcane.

In another part of the facility, 31-year-old apprentice Zack Banks is deciphering a roomful of dials and getting the juice flowing again during an imaginary blackout. Bells ding and meters flash in a central control room that's meant to replicate a real, working substation. With its old-style dials and clicking alarms, this place looks a lot more like a World War II-era submarine than a key node on the power system. Banks dials up the trainer in the exercise - using a rotary telephone.

Bonneville hopes to get federal funding to help build a smart grid for the region. If that happens, workers here could someday be staring at computer screens and digital interfaces. But for now, the next generation of electrical workers will have to get started on some very 20th century gear.

NPR

The existing grid also is not ready for a future that includes more wind and solar power. That's because keeping a grid running is a delicate balancing act - to avoid outages, the amount of power you put in must equal the amount taken out.

So the electricity you're using right now was created just a few seconds ago - most likely at a coal or gas-fired plant that an operator can ramp up or down to meet demand. But renewable energy sources, like wind or solar power, don't work like that.

"On [some] days, you would be lucky to predict wind at 10 percent accuracy," Mansoor says. With difficult-to-predict demand on one side and difficult-to-predict production on the other, it could be almost impossible to manage the grid manually in the future. That's where something called the smart grid comes in.

Digitizing The Grid

In its most basic form, the smart grid adds a computer cable to the electrical wire. With data points all along the system, computers can then manage the grid much faster and more efficiently than humans could.

Boulder, Colo., is set to become the first U.S. city with a smart grid. The local utility, Xcel Energy, has upgraded much of its network in the city and is in the process of installing new meters that also will give customers and the utility a lot more information about how and when energy is used.

Eventually, Boulder customers will be able to log onto a Web site at work and change settings for appliances and their heating system. And the utility will be able to tap into electricity stored in customers' plug-in electric hybrid cars during peak demand times.

The smart grid "is like taking us from the rotary dial phone to the iPhone overnight," says Sandy Simon, director of utility innovations and SmartGridCity at Xcel Energy.

Not only that, but it's expensive - more than $100 million just in this city of 100,000 people. Imagine every home, business, utility pole and substation in the country, and you start to get a sense of how much this undertaking will cost.

NPR

Renewable? Smart Grid? Thats some lame shit right there.

kronosklingon

GROUP: Members

POSTS: 262

Report this May. 19 2009, 11:59 am

Whats your point?

lanceromega

GROUP: Members

POSTS: 3859

Report this May. 19 2009, 2:09 pm

Quote (kronosklingon @ May 18 2009, 12:59 pm)
Whats your point?

point is that the trillions of dollars used to bail out industries such as the banks and Automakers could have been used to upgrade the electrical grid.

As the article states the fact that grid is need of modernation is a major stubbling block to the introduction of renewal resources such as solar and wind power.

The fact is we cannot store excess power should have been corrected decade ago. And the Grid is not design to tranfer power from areas where solar energy could be produce in large solar farms to distant cities is just another factor that should have been address.

Where i work,there are many time due to maintenance issue we are force to run the reactor at full power and the excessive energy that is produce is basically shunted to a series of water wheels that basically chun water in a small manmade lake. This basically dumps the excessive energy, in effect wasting it.

Similar plants around the world actually use this energy to pump water up hill to a reservior, to store it till needed. But power companies in the USA for years refuse to even consider storage of excess power for peak time usage.

The reason, they fair lost of profits and didnot want to invest in projects to upgrade the grid.

As for Education of younger worker. Alot of it is the fact that Working in the power industies is hard demanding work, filled with danger. Line men are constantly getting injured and work long hours after storms to keep the grid going. The Paid doesnot match the cost. I respect their efforts...

caltrek

GROUP: Members

POSTS: 0

Report this May. 30 2009, 5:39 pm

Quote (kronosklingon @ May 19 2009, 11:59 am)
Whats your point?

Well, I don't think I can improve on Lanceromega's answer. It is just an article that I came across in a more or less random search of headlines and news stories. No real point other than those made by Lanceromega. I have to confess that I have a vision for this board of a place to go where people talk about the future. I remember in the Junior College that I attended there was a discussion of starting a curriculum dedicated to futuroloy. That is to say a study of what the future is likely to look like. This would have been a multi-disciplinary approach to studying the future and would have included science and technology as wells as psychology and sociology.

The idea never took hold as far as I know, but the concept intrigued me. Why not study the future? That is to say why not look at present day circumstances and speculate what the future will look like based on those circumstances. I mean if you can't do that on a science fiction board, then where can you do that?

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