The Largest Independent Electrical-Mechanical Sales and Service Company in the Northeast
VOLUME 5 ISSUE 2 OVER 65 YEARS SPRING 2014
Joseph M. Longo
What Happens Up Tower Stays Uptower
Longo, as a member of NAWSA(North American Wind Service Alliance) continues to provide service to existing wind farms. Most recently our technicians here at Longo came up with a generator rotor repair that does not require the removal/repair/reinstallation of the generating unit. In fact, the repair can be made up tower saving tens of thousands of dollars over traditional methods. We recently returned from the Windpower 2014 Show in Las Vegas and had very good traffic to our booth. While the wind power industry has lost some of its "gold rush" atmosphere it is still a real force.
With tax legislation in limbo and the severe weather, there has been slower growth of wind power in 2013. The question of bird and bat killings has also raised its head again. While wind towers represent a small fraction of the deaths of these animals (compared to cars, hunters, disease, etc.) the state governments have decided to play hardball with wind farms on this issue.
For the near future wind is not going to replace oil or coal, but it is making progress. The industry produces approximately 4.13% of the nation's electrical power. In some areas such as South Dakota wind provides as much as 22.3% of the power needed in the state.
So, while windpower may have lost some of its sex appeal it remains a growing, viable and ecological source of electrical power.
We recently made a video to give people a complete overview of our products and services. Unlike our website, where we try to catalog every single product or service we provide, this was more of a short tour. Taking all that footage and boiling it down to 5 minutes was tough, but you quickly learn what 3 seconds or 8 seconds mean! Our overall goal was to give everyone an idea of the scope of what we do and the people behind the scenes.
Even when the weather finally turned warmer this Spring, people still weren't completely sure there wasn't going to be another Easter storm. The warm weather should open up those jobs that were literally frozen. Unlike the frozen suburbs and such, our New York City work has been doing well. The word is out about the benefits of drives, and the desire to green their buildings has managers installing new controls and upgrading older ones. Large tenants rule when it comes to selecting the amount of power they need and how green it is. Drives and controls not only satisfy their tenants' needs, but keep power costs under control as well.
Graphene is made of a single layer of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a repeating pattern of hexagons. Graphene is one million times thinner than paper; so thin that it is actually considered two dimensional.
Carbon is an incredibly versatile element. Depending on how atoms are arranged, it can produce hard diamonds or soft graphite. Graphene's flat honeycomb pattern grants it many unusual characteristics, including the status of strongest material in the world. Columbia University mechanical engineering professor James Hone once said it is "so strong it would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap," according to the university.
These single layers of carbon atoms provide the foundation for other important materials. Graphite - or pencil lead- is formed when you stack graphene. Carbon nanotubes, which are another emerging material, are made of rolled graphene. These are used in bikes, tennis rackets and even living tissue engineering. Graphene is an amazingly pure substance, thanks largely to its simple, orderly structure based on tight, regular, atomic bonding, Carbon is a nonmetal, so you might expect graphene to be one too. In fact, it behaves much more like a metal (though the way it conducts electricity is very different), and that's led some scientists to describe it as a semimetal or a semiconductor (a material mid-way between a conductor and an insulator, such as silicon and germanium). Even so, it's well to remember that graphene is extraordinary-and quite possibly unique. Graphene is believed to be the strongest material yet discovered, some 200 times stronger than steel. Remarkably, it's both stiff and elastic (like rubber), so you can stretch it by an amazing amount (20-25 percent of its original length) without it breaking. That's because the flat planes of carbon atoms in graphene can flex relatively easily without the atoms breaking apart.
Electrical conductivity is just about "ferrying" electricity from one place to another in a relatively crude fashion; much more interesting is manipulating the flow of electrons that carry electricity, which is what electronics is all about. As you might expect from its other amazing abilities, the electronic properties of graphene are also highly unusual. First off, the electrons are faster and much more mobile, which opens up the possibility of computer chips that work more quickly (and with less power) than the ones we use today. Second, the electrons move through graphene a bit like photons (wave-like particles of light), at speeds close enough to the speed of light (about 1 million meters per second, in fact) that they behave according to both the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, where simple certainties are replaced by puzzling probabilities. That means simple bits of carbon (graphene, in other words) can be used to test aspects of those theories on the table top, instead of by using blisteringly expensive particle accelerators or vast, powerful space telescopes.
How was it discovered?
Graphene was first studied theoretically in the 1940s. At the time, scientists thought it was physically impossible for a two dimensional material to exist, so they did not pursue isolating graphene. Decades later, interest picked up and researchers began dreaming up techniques to peel apart graphite. They tried wedging molecules between layers of graphene and scraping and rubbing graphite, but they never got to a single layer. Eventually, they were able to isolate graphene on top of other materials, but not on its own.
In 2002, University of Manchester researcher Andre Geim became interested in graphene and challenged a PhD student to polish a hunk of graphite to as few layers as possible. The student was able to reach 1,000 layers, but could not hit Geim's goal of 10 to 100 layers. Geim tried a different approach: tape. He applied it to graphite and peeled it away to create flakes of layered graphene. More tape peels created thinner and thinner layers, until he had a piece of graphene 10 layers thick.
Geim's team worked at refining their technique and eventually produced a single layer of carbon atoms. They published their findings in "Science" in October 2004. Geim and his colleague Kostya Novoselov received the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010 for their work.
Since those first flakes made with tape, graphene production has improved at a rapid pace. In 2009, researchers were able to create a film of graphene that measured 30 inches across. Due to the broad range of possiblities with graphene there are an equal number of production techniques in play as well. So far the potential applications of graphene cover electronics, optics, and even bio-electronic disease fighting. Nan tubes of graphene are currently the version of choice when it comes to real world applications. There seems to be a sense of giddiness in the potential for graphene. It will be interesting to where and when this discovery moves from potential to actual reproducible material and products.
One of the interesting aspects of the electric motor/generator industry is the stability. Our products really haven't changed since Tesla and Edison had it out over AC vs. DC. Entire industries have flourished and disappeared in that time. Technology has exploded in every aspect of...everything from day to day items to obscure research. A recent panel of companies working with 3-D printing is a case in point. Three years ago they were making little objects from walnut paste and today they are "printing" stainless steel military components. Compared to that, our business is like the Land that Time Forgot.
Another product that came about at the same time as the electric motor was the automobile with its internal combustion engine. The number of versions, changes and advances in that industry are staggering. Computer controlled, hybrid, alternate fueled, electric and now cars that drive themselves.
One advantage of our industry… there isn't the need to constantly "upgrade" to have the latest equipment. Because there isn't any! There is no Ohms Law 8.25. The situation is almost like "Ground Hog Day" where the same events are occurring over and over again. It is as if everyone accepts the stability or status quo and just makes the same repairs for the same problems over and over and over again. There is a 1993 chart in our offices from a bearing company showing 25 different bearing problems Twenty years earlier and now twenty years later the same problems are out there. Bearings are not the only ones, there are lubrication systems, cooling, insulation, shaft currents, arcing, etc. So, if no one complains or demands change there is no incentive for improvement. Given all the technological bells and whistles out there it is hard to believe if a group put their effort towards improving all the various aspects of the electric motor that it wouldn't happen. They might be more expensive, but probably much more reliable and durable.
One area where there have been some strides are motor accessories such as VFD/Drives. These have given electric motor users much more flexibility in how they use their power. Ultimately being more efficient and productive while "persuading" the motor to do things is was never intended to do. But, with all that on the plus side there are also some problems with arcing and bearing wear.
Our winding department stepped up to help out our switchgear group in repairing a blown transformer. While the size of these big boys might be intimidating, the diagnosis and repair was fairly straight forward. Several sections of the windings had shorted out. The transformer lives in a sheltered area so it was protected from the forces of nature. However, over a period of time, small arcing and shorting wires will build up heat and carbon. This leads to deterioration of the insulation and eventually this destroys the winding and the unit stops functioning.
The broken winding is first cleaned of all carbon and damaged insulation and then a new section is brazed into position bridging the burned out spot. Once the repairs are completed the areas are reinsulated and then tested. As the various areas are cleaned and readied for the repair the rest of the transformer is examined and cleaned as necessary to insure that no new burnouts are ready to break through.
There are a variety of reasons for transformer failure from lightning and voltage spikes to simple age. Worn insulation is by far the most prevalent cause for problems, if not explosions. There are a variety of PM activities that can give you a heads up in the condition of your transformer.
There have been scary stories about unmanned or "ghost ships" for hundreds of years. Most recently an unmanned Russian liner was drifting in the North Atlantic, supposedly crewed by cannibal rats. The British Navy was about to intercept it, but where to put it was not so obvious. While this was going on the subject of unmanned items has been picking up.
Unmanned items have become accepted to a certain degree. There have been remote controlled boats, cars, planes and helicopters. From there we take a major leap to military drones in Afghanistan, etc. where some spy and others are intended to make someone die. Add to this an arsenal of unmanned attack boats, partially designed to thwart pirates at sea. Amazon is playing with drone deliveries. And of course we are on the verge of having cars that drive themselves. Now that we have proven that unmanned apparatus can be effectively controlled, what is next for this "app".
One unmanned project being developed is a cargo ship. Yes, ships carrying oil, coal or heavily stacked freight containers traveling the high seas guided only by computer. Economically it is a no brainer. First eliminate the crew, their salary, benefits, etc.…then no rooms, food, waste, ac/heat, human safety items, etc. and use that for more cargo room.
In fact it is becoming harder and harder to find qualified crews that are willing to do three week trips. Admittedly, the on board tasks are tedious and can get downright boring. Statistics show that anywhere from 65-90% of marine accidents are man made and not equipment failures, so while the idea of an unmanned ship may seem really crazy, it will probably be far safer than having a crew on board. But, with all the multiple backup systems required it begs the question of whether there is any real savings by going unmanned.
The ships will be monitored electronically via satellite and the internet. One master captain will supervise up to 50 ships and can step in if a situation dictates it is necessary. Should this come to pass and there are no crews to learn the craft of handling an ocean going cargo ship, where will the next round of master captains come from?
The touchy and potentially dangerous part of bringing the ship to port will still be handled traditionally by placing a harbor master on board outside the harbor. Once the cargo transfer is complete the harbor master will take the ship outside the port and the ship will resume its digitally guided trip.
Longo has been able to help ships at sea with problems. We get a crew on board and take care of business while the ship moves on to the next port. When a computer driven ship dies in the mid-South Atlantic, due to a computer crash, what kind of emergency crew will be sent out? Under normal circumstances the computer could probably do an excellent diagnosis and maybe even robotically makes repairs. More than likely an IT specialist will be making the trip.
The main stumbling block is the industry buying into the whole concept and the cost of the new ships of course. Technically, these ships could jump from the CAD screen into the building yards tomorrow. However, currently there are hundreds of oil powered freighters in a "temporary" boneyard in the South Pacific due to the economy. The glut of ships has dropped the leasing rates to where the cost of running them is a losing proposition.
With new power plants and no crews, these "ghost ships'" could be sailing the high seas before long.
That is the new buzz word for recycling. Years ago the hippies made sandals out of old tires and there are cute craft ideas for the garden made from abandoned furniture. Today people are repurposing everything from abandoned guard rails to entire boardwalks. Today that idea of reusing things is catching on in a new way. Large industrial/commercial material is being scooped up before it hits the scrap heap.
Steel Disks. "We have these steel disks as a byproduct of our manufacturing process. These are 1/2" thick steel cutouts 13 3/4" in diameter. It seems as though there should be a better use for these than just scrap iron. I've used the round steel parts as high power rifle targets. They hold up real well to about any caliber and last quite a while. We also use them sometimes as pads under our small mobile crane when the ground is a little soft. "
Fire hoses are big for protective sleeves on equipment and tools, High school bleachers turned into office trim, Old billboard vinyl sheets were used by a landscaper for protecting lawns and plants. Summertime is a good time to search out "Astroturf" since that is when a lot of schools tear out their old and put in new.
It is one thing to stumble or latch on to these various treasures, but you have know what you can do with them. Of course there are repurposing companies springing up to promote and broker new ideas for old stuff. If you see renovations coming to a mall, school, offices, etc, you never know what they want to get rid of and you could grab.
Old wood beams have always been in demand, now add to that entire gym floors or maybe chain link fence..."In the summer we grow potatoes for our use. We lay down a long piece of chain fence, 40' long x 6' wide. We cover it with a foot of grow soil and plant our potatoes. When it's time to harvest them in the fall, we hook a chain on the chain link and pull the entire piece of chain link. It's then just a matter of picking up the potatoes out of the loose dirt. It saves a lot of digging and doesn't hurt the potatoes!"
Check it out on the web and see if there is anything you can repurpose.