Thursday, November 8, 2012

Power Plants Weatherized for Winter Temperatures

Austin Energy power plant personnel are busy gearing up for winter weather. Insulation is being inspected and replaced or added as needed around sensitive equipment and various pipe lines that manage plant functions or deliver water for the electricity-making process.

All generation plants in Texas reviewed their winterizing protocols after February 2011, when freezing temperatures over a six-day period resulted in the loss of more than 80 generating units that either could not start or could not operate at capacity due to prolonged freezing temperatures. That led to six hours of rotating blackouts throughout Texas until sufficient generation was available.

Power plants in the south are not built with as much or the same types of insulation as plants in northern areas because prolonged periods of freezing temperatures are not common during winter months in the southern states and excess insulation can hamper the efficiency of plants operating during long hot summers.

Austin Energy plant personnel are also inspecting instrumentation that could be affected by freezing temperatures. This includes checking portable heaters located strategically to protect sensitive instrumentation. These winter checks are expected to be completed by the end of November. Austin Energy has two power plants located in Austin: the Decker Creek Power Station and the Sand Hill Energy Center. Both plants operate on natural gas.

A Sand Hill Energy Center contractor prepares to install the next piece of insulation which resembles an oversized piece of chalk.

 The insulation is installed on various pipe lines that mainly carry water used during the 
power generating process.

 The insulation fits snugly around the piping and is secured with metal wire.

 In other areas of the plant, some of the steam pipes can reach 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. With the insulation, you could actually place your hand on one of the pipes and it wouldn't burn.

  Once the insulation has been installed, a metal cover is wrapped around it to protect it from inclement weather. The contractor has to measure and cut each piece of metal to fit the various size pipes at the plant.


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