By Linda Dillman
Severe winter weather wreaked havoc in Texas with power down for days, but installation of a new backup generator for Canal Winchester’s water reclamation department—with the capability to run continuously four times as long as the previous system—should be able to handle a similar emergency with ease.
“The new generator is appropriately sized for the current needs as well as future expansions, meets current pollution standards, and will serve the community well for the next 30 years,” said Steve Smith, Canal Winchester water reclamation superintendent. “The cost of the project is a bit over $400,000 and it should be christened sometime in March. We are very near completion of the replacement of the plant’s backup generator. The original, installed in the latter half of the 1980s has reached the end of its service life.”
When water reclamation underwent a 2017 upgrade, the existing generator was discovered to be undersized to provide power to each of the processes in place. Smith said the department only ran critical equipment while under a power fail scenario to get by until an upgrade could take place.
The city received a grant for $50,000 to apply toward the purchase/installation of the new generator.
“Planning took place in early 2020 and installation began in November of that same year,” said Smith. “The process has been held up several months due to the pandemic. The installation has been proceeding well, with local electrical contractor Abbott Electric performing the service. We expect the generator to be in place and operating the first week of April 2021. Until that point, the existing generator is at the ready. There will not be a rate increase for our residents and customers due to this installation.”
According to Smith, the new 2,000-gallon generator will provide emergency power for the entire plant and any planned expansions for the next 20 years.
“It might be worth letting folks know that all our critical city infrastructure has backup generation, including the water plant and its wells,” he said. “Had Texas facilities had them, they could have left the grid to conserve power for the other users while maintaining service.”
The water treatment plant has generators for the plant and for its wells. City hall has a generator and the public service garage at 400 Ashbrook has its own generator as well.
All essential city services have stand-by power and each is serviced twice a year by a local contractor. They are operated weekly to ensure they will perform in the event of need.
There are also portable pumps and generators for various sewage pump stations throughout the city to provide uninterrupted service to those areas as well.
“Power outages have occurred many more times than one would think,” said Smith. “Radical weather events—high winds and tornados—are the primary cause, but we have had extended outages due to squirrels shorting power lines, cars hitting power poles, transformers exploding and a variety of other causes. Incident numbers are in the many dozens the last 10 years. Keeping the pumps running and basements dry is the primary concern, but ensuring adequate air and pumping for plant treatment processes runs a close second.”
When there is a loss in the power line, automated detectors start the generator and transfer the generator power into service in under one minute. The outage is seamless for plant controls and processes. Once the power is restored, the system reverts to normal and the generator goes back to dormant status following a cooling off period.
The replacement generator is a new, clean technology diesel powered unit with an engine of more than 1300 HP and enough fuel to run over 24 hours continuously, during which time workers can refuel it and run it perpetually if need be for an extended outage. The system is designed to sense adequate line power for a small period of time once line power is restored, before taking the generator out of service.
This process helps the power company as they restore power, keeping demand lower and the line surge lessened when the power is eventually turned back on.
“Recent events in the south, especially Texas, have highlighted the importance of having backup power in place,” said Smith. “Failure to have backup systems in place for us would be calamitous, causing, among other things, basements flooded with sewage, and damage to local waterways from untreated sewage. Canal Winchester has invested heavily in generators and pumps that allow quick action in such an event, allowing for uninterrupted service to our residents and protection of our environment. Our hearts go out to all our fellow citizens who are experiencing or did experience disasters in the southern states. We want Canal Winchester residents to know that emergency protocols are in place to deal with power outages and other disaster scenarios, and that having these protocols and equipment at the ready is a primary concern for city leaders to protect the health and property of our residents.”