Power Plant Update

We are sad and disappointed and frustrated to report that the run the weekend of the 1st and 2nd at the power plant did not go as planned/hoped for and we felt it important to share some details of the process to this point.

At this point the engine has been repaired a total of two times. The first time the damaged parts (mostly lower pistons and bearings) were simply replaced with new or remanufactured parts, along with several other parts that closely relate to those parts (all new/remanufactured cylinders, rings, etc.). Because this was a covered loss through our insurance carrier, KCAMP, the cost to the City was $1,000 for the deductible. The approval for the repairs was not quick in coming though as the total cost was significant, in excess of $300,000. The City did make some demands of the contractor as well during this process as we insisted on better than the standard 1 year/1,000 hour warranty and were able to secure a 5 year/2,000 hour warranty and a five year maintenance agreement. The City’s commitment for the 5 year maintenance agreement is $30,000, but it ensures proper and thorough maintenance on an annual basis and shields the City from the cost of repairs on normal wear items. Additionally the City purchased a new monitoring and control system that will constantly monitor temperatures, pressures, and engine vibrations, as well as other variables throughout the engine and the generator which will help the City and our contractors to identify emerging problems before they result in large repair bills in the future. This new system will allow our main contractor, Farabee Mechanical, to monitor the engine remotely, which will allow them to identify issues from their location in Nebraska, and to shut the engine down remotely if needed. This new system also changes a somewhat complex startup process into a very simple push button process. This leaves the staff largely with just the task of bringing the generator online once the engine is started. The cost for the monitoring and control system is significant at $89,000, but will benefit the City well into the future.

Sadly those initial repairs were not in and of themselves successful and a next step was ultimately settled upon by the contractor, in consultation with the insurance company and Fairbanks Morse (the engine manufacturer). After the first repairs just two bearings and caps were found to be out of spec and it was determined that these two should be machined. Two others were also machined during this time. These other two were in spec, but required some shimming (not at critical points) to keep them where they need to be. Again, the insurance company did take a significant amount of time deliberating on how they would proceed. Sadly these repairs ultimately proved to be insufficient. Through several steps, running the engine for a short time then stopping for measurements, the engine was operating properly and all the measurements were good. It was during the process of bringing the engine up to 75% of maximum capacity that problems were encountered and it was determined that they would allow the engine to go ahead and cool a bit and then they would check the status again of the bearings and the pistons. These checks revealed that several of the bearings and caps had experienced “flashing”, which is a process whereby the face of the bearing is pitted, basically. At this point the contractor has presented the report from their experiences from the unsuccessful run and have presented the city with the next step, which is to separate the block from the base and inspect the block carefully for damage. It is thought that either the bottom crankshaft or the block will need to be replaced, or the block will be line bored. All of this is per the manufacturer, Fairbanks Morse.

It must be noted that in spite of the difficulties the city has experienced, the fact that the city has had this engine has been a tremendous benefit. This engine was selected by the prior administrator and council for these very reasons. First, this new engine is compliant with new rules by the EPA (called the RICE-NESHAP rules). Second, the fact that the engine is RICE-NESHAP compliant means that the City qualifies for credit toward our required “capacity”. Capacity is defined as the city’s peak annual load + 12%. For Jetmore this is 2733 kilowatts. Before we brought our engine online in November 2015 the City paid about $5,800 per month to purchase this capacity from other cities with excess capacity. With the engine the City not only doesn’t pay this $5,800, but because the engine has enough accredited capacity plus the hydroelectric product the City buys from WAPA (which is also counted toward the City’s accredited capacity) Jetmore actually has excess accredited capacity and receives a monthly check in the amount of $475. In total the value of the amount no longer paid for capacity and the amount the City now receives for excess capacity is $75,600/year. The cost of the bond for the power plant project is $53,000. Therefore, the net benefit to the City is $22,600/year which will buy 1 ½ truckloads of new power poles, about 40 pole mounted transformers, or nearly a whole year of the cost of the previously mentioned WAPA contract. Or, if that amount is saved for about 5 years and 4 months, it would purchase a new main transformer for the substation, which is a possibility in the next several years as the current main transformer is a 1980 vintage. In short, even not running this engine continues to benefit the City pretty immensely. That said, we need to get it running again. That task is the number one goal of the mayor, council, and the city staff and will remain so until it is done.