Friday, June 21, 2013

Solar Tree and Plaza Dedicated At Dittmar Recreation Center

Austin Energy, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and the Austin Art in Public Places (AIPP) program hosted a dedication ceremony this morning for a one-of-a-kind solar tree and plaza with embedded LED lights and located in front of the gymnasium at the Dittmar Recreation Center in South Austin.

The celebration highlighted the summer solstice (June 21), the longest day of the year, when the most solar energy can be produced. The 2-kW Solar Tree stands 10 feet tall with a circular canopy supporting 10 solar panels, each generating up to 200 watts. The panels have the ability to capture light directly from the sun and from light reflected upward from the ground. At night, the tree displays a halo of LED lights, with additional light from LEDs embedded in the plaza. 

The tree was commissioned by the AIPP program as part of the construction of the gym, which opened in 2012.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Leased Trucks Enhance Austin Energy Fleet Reliability

These are among the first vehicles in a five-year lease contract that Austin Energy is employing to replace aging Electric Service Delivery work trucks. They are 36-foot bucket trucks but also include a 100-foot bucket truck, at right.

Some 17 bucket trucks have been delivered to Austin Energy in the first phase of a lease contract that will further improve our fleet of vehicles used for electric system maintenance and reliability.

The leased vehicles include a dozen bucket trucks with a 35-foot reach, typically used by repair crews working on overhead lines, as well as taller buckets, including a 100-foot lift needed to reach the highest levels. Typically, we have bought equipment outright and used it as long as it was operable. However, as equipment ages, reliability diminishes – a significant concern when working to restore power, often in stormy weather.

The five-year lease approach comes with service and repair contracts that ensure quick turnaround or vehicle replacement should problems develop. In the next fiscal year, the second and third phase of the contract will see more than two-dozen additional bucket trucks and other field vehicles delivered. Austin Energy tested the lease approach in recent years to verify its cost efficiency.

Seventeen new field trucks are being prepared for service.

These field trucks represent the first round of a three-phase vehicle replacement program.

All of the vehicles are being prepared for service this summer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Squirrels Impact Electric System Reliability in Austin

A squirrel or any animal can cause a power outage when one part of the animal is touching a power line and another part is touching another piece of equipment such as the power pole. The power will move through the animal to the pole in what is called a phase-to-ground power surge, and a power outage occurs.

Squirrels cause more than 300 power outages each year in the Austin Energy system in spite of significant efforts to protect equipment with special animal guards. These guards are used by utilities all across the country.

Unfortunately, there is no absolute way to protect all electrical equipment from animal contact. Squirrels are a primary cause of non-storm related power outages in just about every part of the country with significant tree canopy.

Animals such as squirrels, snakes and other climbing or tree-dwelling wildlife can come into contact with electrical equipment and cause a power outage.

Austin Energy crews install guards such as these around pole-top power equipment to guard against animal encroachment

The plastic guards can encase pole-top electrical equipment to prevent contact by wildlife.

A crew member reconnects the equipment after installing the animal guard.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

State-of-the-art Mobile Crane Will Help Line Crews in Tight Spaces

A new heavy “knuckle boom” mobile crane capable of lifting up to 50,000 pounds is the newest workhorse in Austin Energy’s fleet of trucks. A select group of line workers will be trained on the state-of-the-art unit that can be controlled from the truck or by remote control, so the operator can move around to get the best view of the job.

The hydraulic crane is mounted on the back of a heavy-duty, flat-bed truck and has six hydraulic arm extensions that provide a long horizontal reach to move transformers and other heavy equipment under low-hanging power lines.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Automated, Dark Sky Compliant Streetlights In Place By Year's End

Almost 34,000 of the 70,000 streetlights throughout Austin have been outfitted with communications nodes that signal Austin Energy when a light is out or when a light stays on during the day. The system also allows the utility to remotely adjust when streetlights turn on and off to better match seasonal sunrise and sunset changes. And, it provides economy of response when maintenance is needed, because all streetlights in an area with issues can be addressed in one repair trip.

In addition to the communications nodes, crews are installing fixtures that shine the light down rather than out and up. That work is part of the City of Austin Dark Sky initiative. Both the installation of the communications system and the Dark Sky retrofits are projected for completion by the end of this year.

The communications system is projected to save almost $400,000 a year in reduced streetlight energy use. Significant savings will also be achieved through economy of scale maintenance response. These streetlight initiatives began in the spring of 2011.

An Austin Energy crew replaces an older streetlight fixture with one of the new flat style casings for Dark Sky compliance and increased energy efficiency.

The new light fixtures have a transmitter on top that will alert Austin Energy when maintenance is required.