Letter Re: Regarding Massive Solar Events/Power Generation


Working for 35 years as a field engineer for a major oil company, then five years as an engineer for the Cat dealer in KY, I was in and out of almost every industry in the U.S. In 2008 I was tasked with making a presentation to the Kentucky Association of Hospital Engineers on the subject of Emergency Diesel Generators. My research for the session included calling on all of the fuel terminals and most of the fuel distributors, as well as studying the fuel requirements of the various major hospitals in the Louisville area. At one major hospital complex there were/are five diesel gensets pulling diesel fuel from one 4,000-gal above-ground fuel tank. In the event of a “lights-out” event, with all five generators running, the complex would also be “lights-out” in 26 hours without on-going JIT fuel deliveries. Backing up the “fuel chain”, none of the local fuel distributors (the folks who actually run the trucks and deliver the fuel) had any emergency generators to run the pumps that fill their trucks. Further back up the “fuel chain”, none of the five fuel terminals had any emergency generators to move the fuel from storage tanks into the distributors’ trucks. One of the distributors claimed that they could/would jury-rig the pumps on their trucks to fill trucks and deliver fuel, but all five fuel terminals were hard-piped (to insure all gallons went through meters and could be billed), with almost no capability to improvise.

After the presentation, one of the attending engineers advised me that in the event of another “Madris Fault”, all hospital operations between the epicenter and a radius out to Louisville/Elizabethtown, KY, would be pretty much destroyed.

While nuclear plants have much larger fuel storage, they do have a major problem with genset requirements– their specifications require that gensets be able to go from start-up to full load in 10 seconds. Looking at cracked heads, failed crankshafts, cracked blocks, spun bearings on crankshafts and connecting rods, cooked turbocharger bearings, et cetera on EMD, Fairbanks-Morse, SACM (French) engines and other makes, in several nuc plants, it becomes apparent that while these engines can withstand fast-starts for a while, the enormous rapid thermal stresses will eventually produce a failure, just when emergency power in required. Interesting times, I’d say. – DH somewhere in IA