One visit to a hydro plant takes the entire Southwest Virginia Power Company offline...go Sparky!
My first job out of college was working for the Power Company in Southwest Virginia. I was assigned to the Communications Group that maintained the company's carrier relay, microwave, telephone, base and mobile radio systems. Mainly, it was office work, but I got to go out with the Field Service Crew from time to time.
One day, we were called out to service the supervisory phone circuit at the Smith Mountain Hydroelectric Plant. Since we suspected a bad channel unit in the FDM microwave radio system, my buddy went behind the rack to chase the cables, and I went in front of the rack to pull the suspected channel unit.
Initially, the channel units had been labeled with DYMO labels, but they often fell off in a dusty, moist environment. My buddy got out the "sheet music" (the signal path schematic) -- so called because it reads from left to right with a bunch of lines indicating signals (looks somewhat like a music staff) and the dots on the lines indicating terminations. Reading the sheet music, he called out to me "The fifth channel." I said, "From the right or the left?" He said, "Right, NO, LEFT!!!" He made a common mistake, he transposed right to left, TWICE!!! From down the hill at the Hydro Plant, there was a resounding KABOOM!!!
Anyone who has heard air breakers actuate, knows the sound. Normally, if a 138 kV breaker opens in air, it would just draw an arc and the ionized air would STILL conduct electricity. To prevent this, the arc is blasted away with jets of air at 1200 PSI, hence the loud noise. The maintenance phone on the wall started ringing and my buddy advised me not to answer it.
When I got back to the office, my reputation as "Sparky" had preceded me...and less than ONE YEAR into my engineering career!!! After all, how many people had ever single-handedly tripped a power plant offline???
Oksy, sounds like you pulled the proverbial plug.
Go on. How much work was it to bring the power plant back on-line? I take it, it was more involved than simplyk plugging the channel rack cable back in.
Sparky seems to be a common name for beginning engineers in the communication/radio field.
My first job at an AM broadcast station In Tucson in the late 80's didn't fare to well either.
A Harris MW-50, 50KW AM transmitter using a cheap made B&W high voltage probe on the end of a 10 foot insulated rod trying to measure the plate supply voltage at the power supply end resulted in the probe disintegrating and the sound of machine guns going off, at least until the transmitter finally tripped the power supply and went off the air.
Of course the name sparky stood for years along with the knowledge to use a Fluke high voltage probe for all future measurements.
This incident gave me a new respect for 22 Kv and high amperage circuits.
January 2016 Cartoon Caption ContestBob's punishment for missing his deadline was to be tied to his chair tantalizingly close to a disconnected cable, with one hand superglued to his desk and another to his chin, while the pages from his wall calendar were slowly torn away.122 comments