Saturday, August 18, 2007

IEEE Picnic

:: the fantasy ::
Our tour guide with the Army Corps of Engineers professed ignorance of our IEEE guild, at least with respect to our geographic origins, and so queried us before his talk, a kind of namespace check, to see if he'd need to decode the likes of BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) and/or WPA (Work Projects Administration).

As it turned out, we were mostly local yokels with or without family members. I was there with Carol (my mom) and Tara (my teen). We also visited the Fish Hatchery and saw some really big sturgeon, enjoyed coffee from the gift shop (chocolates by Ghirardelli).

Mom hadn't been here since her trans-America trip with my dad as a newly-wed (car trouble in Montana, genius mechanic).

Someone (not me) asked where he, our tour guide, was from. "Indiana, Pennsylvania" as it turned out, which was cool. I have family there too, where we both knew Irelands.

:: the reality ::
Anyway, Powerhouse One is a WPA project dating back to the original design of Bonneville Dam and Lock.

Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned in the area on the promise of starting this project, which had huge momentum behind it.

Myopic easterners expressed skepticism that our Pacific Rim economy, rather recently contacted by Lewis & Clark, would ever make use of the six planned-for generators, let alone the 21 we're now using (that's counting the smallish two fish ladder engines on the Washington side, plus the one in Powerhouse One for local use): "the Dam of Doubt" they called it.

Transformers bedeck the topside of Powerhouse One and put stronger pressure behind the high voltage distribution networks, while lowering amperage. This works pretty well to counter unwanted power loss over the long haul.

He anticipated questions about pricier superconducting solutions such as are found in some parts of the Russian system, but doubted we'd be needing such services down here any time soon, so far south, and the very last in the sequence of Columbia River megawatt dams, which start up in Canada.

The big local news is the ongoing remodel of the generators themselves, which still contain parts dating back to the 1940s and before. Engineers are gradually switching in some new parts, including new blade assemblies, designed to be more fish-friendly plus less oily/leaky to own/operate.

:: a newer blade assembly ::