62 episodes

The POWER Podcast provides listeners with insight into the latest news and technology that is poised to affect the power industry. POWER’s Executive Editor Aaron Larson conducts interviews with leading industry experts and gets updates from insiders at power-related conferences and events held around the world.


    • Technology
    • 5.0, 7 Ratings

The POWER Podcast provides listeners with insight into the latest news and technology that is poised to affect the power industry. POWER’s Executive Editor Aaron Larson conducts interviews with leading industry experts and gets updates from insiders at power-related conferences and events held around the world.

    Amicarella ‘Demystifies’ the Role of CEO for Women - EthosEnergy

    Amicarella ‘Demystifies’ the Role of CEO for Women - EthosEnergy

    Amicarella ‘Demystifies’ the Role of CEO for Women.
    The power generation industry has historically been a male-dominated industry, but today there are a number of women who have risen through the ranks to positions of leadership. Ana Amicarella, CEO of EthosEnergy, is one of them.
    EthosEnergy is a leading independent service provider of rotating equipment services and solutions to the power, oil and gas, and industrial markets. Amicarella was appointed CEO last December after spending 22 years with GE and eight with Aggreko, where she was managing director for its Latin America business prior to taking on her latest role.
    Speaking as a guest on The POWER Podcast, Amicarella explained how her career evolved. “I started in engineering. I moved to sales. I did strategy. Then I did operations roles,” Amicarella said. “For the past 18 years, I’ve been running different businesses, which is what I love to do and likely will continue to do,” she said.
    Amicarella’s first seven months at the helm of EthosEnergy have been interesting to say the least. In December, COVID-19 was not yet a major concern to most people around the world, but that quickly changed. Amicarella was forced to deal with the situation.
    “We reacted swiftly and decisively,” she said. “We built a plan—a strategic plan that we developed as a team—and we just accelerated the execution of the plan, and adapted to the new environment and the different working rules that we had to face.”
    EthosEnergy has 20 facilities scattered throughout the world, and the company was able to keep them all open, even during the height of the pandemic. Amicarella said keeping people safe was a top priority, so new protocols were created and workplace adjustments were made.
    “We essentially sent our office personnel home, but we were already users of virtual technology, so our IT team made sure that we had the proper infrastructure to support remote workers,” she said.
    Concerning women in the workforce, Amicarella said, “All the companies I've work for, I think they valued women, and I think they really tried to do the best they could to retain and develop women.” Still, she suggested there’s a lot more work to be done.
    “We need definitely more diversity in our industry,” Amicarella said. “I think a lot of it starts at home. We have to encourage girls to do more problem-solving, more involvement in sports to develop that competitive spirit, and then take it into schools and encourage girls to get into math and sciences. Make it fun—hands-on—demystify things,” she said.
    “When you start seeing that women are in powerful positions then it demystifies the role,” said Amicarella. It allows other women to say, “If she can do it, I probably can do it!”
    When recruiting personnel, Amicarella looks for the combination of diversity and talent. She suggested the key is to have a diverse slate, and then pick the top candidate. “My leadership team from seven months ago to today is a very diverse leadership team, and it’s not by accident,” she said.

    • 18 min
    Using Autonomous Drones in the Power Sector - Reese Mozer

    Using Autonomous Drones in the Power Sector - Reese Mozer

    Using Autonomous Drones in the Power Sector.
    Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have been dabbled with throughout the power industry for years. POWER featured a drone on its cover in April 2014, and it has published many articles on drone technology since then. Yet, the technology has been used more as a novelty in the power sector up to this point.
    As a guest on The POWER Podcast, Reese Mozer, CEO and co-founder of American Robotics, suggested that could change in the very near future. “We’ve all been talking about this for a very long time—you know, a decade plus—and despite all that, we really are not even scratching the surface yet of the scale that drones will be implemented and the value that will come from them,” he said. “But we are about to enter a very different generation of drone technology—and really robotics in general—and, you know, I think the next decade is going to look quite a bit different.”
    According to Mozer, American Robotics has developed the next generation of drone technology. The company offers a fully automated drone system that’s capable of continuous unattended operation. Mozer explained that the autonomous drones work in conjunction with automated base stations to capture, process, analyze, and transfer data remotely to a user. The base stations charge and house the drones to prepare them for their next flight. He said this level of automation is key to finally unlocking drones as a viable tool for the energy sector.
    “The reality is that until we can remove the human from the loop, drones will not be able to scale to the levels that everybody has imagined,” Mozer said. “Once we can, [that] changes the economics of working with a drone. That changes the logistics. Not only does it make it affordable and practical to actually scale, it actually unlocks a whole different type of data collection, and thus, analysis that we can do on that data.”
    There are still some challenges to overcome, however, such as getting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations updated to allow autonomous operation. “That is the primary hurdle stopping this technology from taking off,” Mozer said. “American Robotics has developed the technology, the automation, the machine vision, the AI [artificial intelligence] that’s required to actually conduct these automated operations reliably in the real world. And the last step for us, and for the rest of the industry, is to overcome FAA regulations.
    “Beyond line of sight is probably the most key. There’s also a list of other ones that would prohibit this kind of automated operation,” he said. “And that's one of the reasons that we don't see drones flying all over the place right now.”
    There is reason for optimism. “We expect it in the near future,” Mozer said. “This topic is something that has been debated over and worked on from both a technology perspective and a policy perspective for really the past decade, and we think that that change is coming quite soon.”

    • 14 min
    What Is DERMS and How Can It Help Utilities - Seth Frader-Thompson

    What Is DERMS and How Can It Help Utilities - Seth Frader-Thompson

    What Is DERMS and How Can It Help Utilities?
    A distributed energy resource management system, or DERMS, is a software platform used to manage a group of distributed energy resource (DER) assets—such as rooftop photovoltaic solar panels, behind-the-meter batteries, or a fleet of electric vehicles—to deliver vital grid services and balance demand with supply to help utilities achieve mission-critical outcomes.
    As a guest on The POWER Podcast, Seth Frader-Thompson, CEO of the DERMS provider EnergyHub, said aggregating DERs can offer a number of benefits to power companies. For example, they may be used to support frequency or voltage on the grid, shift load, or provide emergency demand response. Although many utilities manage DERs through a relatively manual process today, Frader-Thompson said some companies are shifting to a more automated framework, in which computers are identifying issues in the system, proactively forecasting how DERs could be manipulated to mitigate the problem, and executing the strategy.
    “The utility grid operator does not want to think about a million individual batteries, rooftop solar systems, electric vehicles, smart thermostats, industrial process controllers, etc. They essentially want a virtual power plant and sort of a virtual knob for that plant that they can operate,” Frader-Thompson said.
    EnergyHub’s Mercury DERMS uses advanced machine learning-based artificial intelligence to manage resources. “We have invested many millions of dollars in a bunch of artificial intelligence that allows the system to take 100,000 resources that happen to be clustered around a certain city and stitch them together in a closed-loop way into something that allows the utility to sort of specify exactly the outcome they want,” said Frader-Thompson. “The DERMS is basically built to allow them to do either something very specific, or something very general, and kind of dial it into exactly what works for them.”
    In addition to complicating grid operation, the growth in DERs would seem to pose a business challenge for utilities too. For example, if more customers are generating their own power, that means the local electric company is selling less. But Frader-Thompson suggested DERMS could provide new revenue streams for power companies to tap into.
    “There are other ways to make money and the concept of a DERMS creating grid services from a big group of aggregated DERs is in and of itself another revenue opportunity for utilities,” he said. “Increasingly, you’re seeing regulators say, ‘You know what? This is really valuable to the grid. In many ways, this is preferable to ratepayers—to the community—over a traditional, capital-intensive infrastructure upgrade.’ And you're seeing those regulators say, ‘You—the utility—are able to make a regulated rate of return on that.’ ”

    • 33 min
    The Importance of a Resilient Power System - Amol Sabnis & Jason Teckenbrock

    The Importance of a Resilient Power System - Amol Sabnis & Jason Teckenbrock

    The Importance of a Resilient Power System.
    It’s hurricane season in the U.S., which runs from June 1 through the end of November, and there have already been three named storms. The most recent was Tropical Storm Christobal, which was the earliest third-named Atlantic storm on record when it formed on June 2. It made landfall in the U.S. along the northern Gulf Coast on June 7, with heavy rain, a storm surge of almost six feet, and a few tornadoes.
    “Irrespective of which part of the world you belong to, we are seeing the impact of severe weather across the globe,” Amol Sabnis, global lead for Transmission and Distribution with Accenture, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “One thing is clear—that the severe weather events are becoming a recurring global event.”
    Accenture recently released a report titled “From Reliability to Resilience: Confronting the Challenges of Extreme Weather,” which included insight gleaned from a survey of more than 200 C-suite and senior vice president-level executives at electric utilities spread across 28 countries. “We conducted this research to better understand the risks posed by increased frequency of extreme weather and how we can help our clients navigate these challenges by building a more resilient network,” Sabnis said.
    The findings from the study are eye-opening. Nearly nine out of 10 executives surveyed said extreme weather events had grown in frequency, severity, or duration over the past 10 years. Furthermore, more than nine out of 10 expect extreme weather events to increase over the next 10 years. Yet, less than a quarter of the executives felt well-prepared to manage the challenges of extreme weather events.
    “One of the things that we found in our research is that nearly every utility considers resilience as a matter of focus,” said Jason Teckenbrock, North American lead for Transmission and Distribution with Accenture, who was also a guest on podcast. “So, even if they’re not fully prepared, they know they need to focus on it.”
    Teckenbrock suggested that there are three steps utilities can take to improve resiliency. They can harden their networks, improve restoration effectiveness, and/or develop greater system flexibility. However, network hardening is costly, and improving restoration effectiveness takes time to implement and can require significant procedural changes. Therefore, the most cost-effective approach for enhancing resilience in many scenarios is developing greater system flexibility.
    Some ways flexibility can be improved include creating automated self-healing grids and incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) to help route electricity in a more appropriate manner. AI can also be used to conduct vegetation management assessments and to identify other risks.
    “We’ve seen lots of utilities starting to work on this,” Teckenbrock said. “We believe that taking a metric-based approach is important here.”

    • 23 min
    Tips for Check Valve Selection and Installation - Brian Strait and Noah Miller

    Tips for Check Valve Selection and Installation - Brian Strait and Noah Miller

    Tips for Check Valve Selection and Installation.
    Check valves are installed in many piping systems. Their purpose is to allow flow in only one direction, which can be critical for plant safety and to protect equipment from damage.
    There are a few different check valve designs, including swing check valves and spring-loaded poppet-style check valves. Understanding which type is best for a given application and ensuring valves are properly installed is vital to success.
    Noah Miller, applications/engineered sales manager with Check-All Valve Manufacturing Co., and Brian Strait, business development and marketing manager with Check-All Valve, explained the differences between check valve designs, and offered installation and sizing tips as guests on The POWER Podcast. Check-All Valve is a West Des Moines, Iowa-based manufacturer of industrial spring-loaded poppet-style check valves.
    Miller explained that piston poppet check valves have two main advantages over swing check valves. The first concerns water hammer, which is hydraulic shock caused when water stops or changes direction suddenly. “Once that wave gets to the swing check, it'll push that clapper closed and actually slam it shut, which will promote that water hammering effect,” Miller said. However, the spring inside a piston poppet-style check valve helps minimize, and may even eliminate, water hammer, because it closes the valve before the pressure way arrives.
    “The secondary aspect or advantage of the piston poppet over a swing check is installation orientation,” Miller said. “A swing check is only supposed to be installed in a horizontal-flow position. Whereas, a spring-loaded piston check can be vertical-flow up, vertical-flow down, 45 degrees, 37 degrees, you can kind of pick and choose with that spring, because it allows it to still close in a static condition in the piping system.”
    Another consideration when installing check valves concerns the run of piping. Miller noted, “Ideally, you'd like to have a minimum of 10 pipe diameters of straight pipe on the upstream side of the check valve.” The reason is to ensure the flow through the valve is laminar in nature, that is, fluid particles following in smooth layers, with little or no mixing. Miller said that would maximize the effective valve life.
    Getting a valve sized correctly for the application is also important. The goal is for a check valve to always be either fully open or fully closed. “Pressure and flow together create pressure drop across the given check valve,” Miller said. “You can have enough of one, but not enough of the other.”
    Miller presented an example of a system with 300 psi of pressure, but only 0.005 gpm of flow. He said, “You’re not fully opening any check valve, it doesn't matter what style it is, because you’ve got enough pressure, but you don’t have enough flow, and that pressure and flow together create that pressure drop to fully open the valve.”
    Listen to The POWER Podcast to hear the complete interview.

    • 19 min
    Understanding the Dangers of Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

    Understanding the Dangers of Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

    Understanding the Dangers of Hydrogen Sulfide Gas.
    Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas is produced as a result of the microbial breakdown of organic materials in the absence of oxygen. It can be found in tanks, vaults, voids, and other confined spaces at industrial facilities including power plants.
    Besides being flammable and corrosive, H2S is also colorless and toxic, even in relatively low concentrations, so it is extremely hazardous to workers. In fact, it is the second-most-common cause of workplace inhalation fatalities behind carbon monoxide. H2S is noticeable initially by its rotten egg smell, but the gas can deaden senses making it difficult for workers to detect without a gas monitor.
    Veriforce CEO Colby Lane and Chris Detillier, senior safety analyst with Veriforce, were guests on The POWER Podcast. Veriforce is a leading provider of software and services that enhance workforce and community safety. Among its offerings is a training course called H2S Clear, which provides students with life-saving information while meeting the compliance requirements of ANSI/ASSP standards.
    “It's extremely toxic. As little as 700 parts per million can cause someone to immediately collapse, and they can die from it,” Detillier said. “So, it is very important to have a good training program in place.”
    Lane explained that Veriforce’s training model essentially credentials and accredits instructors. Then, those instructors provide the training to actual workers.
    Detillier said he’s received a lot of positive feedback every time he’s taught a “train-the-trainer” class for H2S Clear. “We've had guys that have been in the industry for years—some of them who have previously been through H2S training—and after class would tell me how much that they learned from the class and appreciate the content that we have in there.”

    • 10 min

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