Monday, October 24, 2011

The global village.

This is one that's been making my brain hurt for a while.

The husbeast, since he retired, has been working at a factory that builds turbines. He inspects them; makes sure they aren't cracked, that the welds are solid, that no one machined it too small by accident. That kind of thing*. The factory is owned by an international conglomerate that builds all sorts of things meant for power plants, refineries, and like that. Major, very large, heavy industry.

A few months ago, he mentioned to me that the factory was going to be doing a new trick; testing the turbines. Not just the bits they build here in SW Pennsylvania out in the boonies, but big, hunormous things shipped in from all over, the finished products built by his factory and others, in working order. It turns out, the conglomerate was running their main 'test floor', as they call it, in Japan. Since the tsunami knocked out the reactors there, they've been on power rationing and don't know when it'll end. Looking around, they decided the best facility to take over the job would be, yes. This place here in the boonies of Pennsylvania.

While all this made sense to me, I was thinking big picture: HOW much were they going to spend, shipping stuff halfway around the world for testing? I knew the turbines the husbeast built were big, but geez, how big could they be? So I asked how much power they were expecting to use, that it was worthwhile.

100 megawatts. They needed 100 megawatts of power.

I didn't run around doing the Doc Brown "ONE POINT TWENTY-ONE JIGAWATTS!?!" while tearing out my hair, but it was a near thing.

The output of an ENTIRE power plant, the WHOLE DAMN THING, is between 400 and 600 megawatts. (It varies a lot; fuel, conditions, design, etc. But that's the neighborhood. Nuclear submarine reactors produce about 20 megawatts, at least according to public info.) That joke we all make about how we turn on the air conditioning in our house, and they know it at the power plant? IT WILL BE TRUE for this test floor. They're having to put in a power grid substation for it. A hundred megawatts.

We are living in the future. A tsunami in Japan has created a shift in the power grid in rural Pennsylvania. Look out for butterflies.


*The husbeast's job consists of all sorts of wild and crazy methods, from the very, exceedingly simple to the really Meet George Jetson futuristic stuff. The first thing he did when he went to work there was make them buy new measuring equipment like calipers. He's the one who calls regular rulers "a fucking wooden stick" with a lot of sneering. One night he was asked to check some parts for cracks, just a quick check. He was in a hurry, so he walked along them and hit them with his flashlight. Ding, ding, ding, thunk. He pointed out the thunk and said it was cracked. He was right. This is where the term 'dead ringer' comes from and goes back into prehistory in bell making. The guys he works with act like he's a combination of Gandalf and Mike Holmes.


Rachelle said...

My husband found the last part of your post very amusing, especially ding, ding, ding, thunk!
We're both wondering what the turbines are used for that use that much power though, that's a huge amount!

Lynda said...

Ha! Your husbeast IS a combination of Gandalf and Mike Holmes!

Mine used to shovel coal into power generators in that area. He knew how all the power plants were interconnected between Pittsburgh and the lake. He's going to get such a kick out of your story!

Anne-Marie said...

I think I like the husbeast - I come from a family of engineers, including my son.

Jessica Snell said...

Wow - this is just fascinating. I think I actually laughed out loud when I got to the "this will actually be true for them!" part.

Anonymous said...

Loved the "...ding, ding, ding, thunk!" Wish my QC inspections went as easily, but most medical stuff we make doesn't "ding" to begin with!

Emily said...

Your husbeast is awesome.

Skatequeenknitter said...

And just think what a wonderful person he married. Seems he knows what he is doing with quite a few things.

Amy said...

Well of course he's awesome! And ding-ding-thunk is hilarious. And I'm so disappointed you didn't do the Doc Brown thing... so much more to add to the legend of chez Samurai!

Linda said...

Very funny story, thanks. Glad to see you back, too.
Umm, what did your husband do before he " retired" ?

Alwen said...


I hafta tell you one of the cool geeky things that happened viz. our trip:

On the drive to O'Hare, we saw going north several of the blades of the big wind turbines they're starting to put up further north along the Lake Michigan coast.

One.Blade.To.A.Semi - they are really freaking BIG blades.

The coolness was when we got to the Netherlands, where there are hundreds and thousands of these things, and the kid had a visceral sense of exactly how big each blade was, having seen them on the highway just before we left.