Hartwell’s teamwork is a powerful thing

Hartwell staff lowers Unit 1's exciter housing into the erection bay.
Hartwell staff lowers Unit 1’s exciter housing into the erection bay.

Last week while most folks were winding down for Super Bowl weekend, hydropower staff at Hartwell were gearing up to keep their generators functional.

Around lunchtime on Thursday (Jan. 30), Nick Ruff (hydropower electrician) and John Clark (hydropower mechanic) smelled something burning.

(Side note: A burning smell in a hydroelectric power plant is never a good sign.)

They quickly alerted other co-workers including Tim Morrill (senior mechanic), Bob Vanhorn (duty operator), and Ryan Hanna (power plant manager). Unit 1 was promptly shutdown, safely cleared out, and inspected. The team discovered burnt slip rings and brush rigging in Unit 1’s exciter housing.

A close up of the melted brush housings and burnt slip ring in Unit 1’s rotating assembly.

After assessing the situation, the team decided to cannibalize parts from Unit 3, which has been out of service for some time, and use them to repair Unit 1. The team worked quickly despite several additional obstacles, including intermittent rain, and had the unit back online by Saturday evening.

Usually, weather would not be a factor, but Hartwell is the only U.S. Army Corps of Engineers power house that has its generators outside. The crew had to routinely stop work to dry the surfaces before continuing with the repair.  

The team, including John Clark, hydropower mechanic (top), Tim Morrill (center) senior mechanic, and Nick Ruff (left), hydropower electrician, installs the exciter rotating element, which weighs about 17,000 pounds.
Hydropower mechanic Cory Rice and hydropower electrician Nick Ruff install new brushes and brush boxes on the exciter rotating assembly.
Hydropower mechanic Cory Rice and hydropower electrician Nick Ruff install new brushes and brush boxes on the exciter rotating assembly.

Normally this type of repair would require the power house to contract out the work, which can be costly in terms of parts, labor and time that the unit is not in operation.

Hanna, the power plant manager, estimated this repair would have taken at least two months for the work to be completed, including the time to ship the assembly each way. 

He said for every day that one unit is not available to generate power, that’s about $13,500 that could have gone into the Treasury. Hartwell’s plant has five generators. So Hartwell’s team not only saved us a ton of money and time, they allowed us to continue to provide stable power to the region without skipping a beat.

Other Hartwell MVPs who were part of the repair: Hydropower electricians Leland teNijenhuis and Chris Jennell, and hydropowermechanic Chris Willis.

We’re grateful for the super role our Hartwell professionals played leading up to the Super Bowl.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

About U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District oversees a multimillion dollar military construction program at 11 Army and Air Force installations in Georgia and North Carolina. We also manage water resources across the Coastal Georgia region, including maintenance dredging of the Savannah and Brunswick harbors; operation of three hydroelectric dams and reservoirs along the upper Savannah River; and administration of an extensive stream and wetland permitting and mitigation program within the state of Georgia. Follow us on Twitter @SavannahCorps and on Facebook.com/SavannahCorps
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