How Important Are Infrared (IR) Inspection Windows at a Geothermal Energy Generation Facility?
Power generation plants convert heat into electricity – usually by burning fossil fuels to create steam to operate a turbine. A geothermal power generation plant uses heat from the earth to generate electricity. The energy is accessed by drilling water or steam wells deep in the earth. The hot, pressurized geothermal fluid rapidly expands to produce steam which turns the turbine blades. Energy from the turning turbine blades spins magnets inside a large coil to product electric current. A generator sends the electrical current to transformers where voltage is increased and finally transmitted over power lines to homes, buildings and businesses. Like other power generation plants, a geothermal power plant utilizes critical electrical components such as turbines, generators and transformers. Can the plant’s reliability team predict when one of these critical electrical components is deteriorating and fix it before it fails? The answer is YES!
A failure of a critical electrical component at a power plant would severely impact operations and cause major inconvenience and safety risks to the plant’s customers and community in general. Businesses such as water treatment plants, hospitals, airports, industrial plants and our homes would all be impacted by a loss of power.
Every geothermal power generation plant should conduct a power distribution asset condition assessment to understand the relative health of their essential infrastructure. Some plants probably have backup systems; however, the backup assets need to be inspected and maintained to insure proper functionality should the need arise and may not protect from all types of equipment failure.
These industries recognize the criticality of establishing and performing Condition Based Maintenance programs on their electrical assets. Routine inspections enable personnel to monitor the relative health of critical electrical components and systems. Innovative products and services, called Electrical Maintenance Safety Devices (EMSDs), enable personnel to perform routine electrical inspections of energized assets both safely and efficiently.
Common types of EMSDs include Maintenance Inspection Windows with Infrared or Infrared and Ultrasound capabilities, Ultrasound Ports and handheld measuring devices, Wireless Temperature Monitoring Systems and Intelligent Asset Tagging Systems. Utilizing these tools within a condition based maintenance program allows the reliability team to routinely and safely perform inspections, collect data, monitor data over time and determine if an electrical asset is starting to deteriorate. These programs allow companies to schedule downtime to fix the asset versus experiencing an unplanned outage and disrupting the lives and safety of thousands of people.
Power generation plants cannot tolerate an internal electrical failure that impacts the safety and comfort of their personnel or their end-user customer base. Improved operational reliability and productivity can be achieved
by implementing a condition based maintenance program using EMSDs to monitor, maintain and anticipate problems on their generators or on-site power distribution and power generation systems before an actual electrical component fails.