The steam was roaring through the pipes as we engaged the turbines. One and Three kicked in immediately, Two took a while to build up and Four lagged way behind as could be expected but it was turning over. For some reason Four was always a bit behind the others. We would have to check it closer after we got all the generators seated in and online. There could be a slight kink in the line or a design flaw that was causing this.
Watching the RPMs on the four turbines as they climbed higher and higher Jason displayed that lopsided grin of his, "I just LOVE these nice hot days! Makes people want to turn on their air conditioners."
Walking into the control room after lunch Horace Malcolm looked over at us and smiled himself. You have to know Horace to really appreciate the significance of that gesture. Horace is the type of person who only smiles at disaster or when he KNOWS he's about to REALLY piss someone off! Hearing that the Titanic went down, Horace would have smiled, the Johnstown flood, Horace would have smiled, the nuclear bombing of Japan, Horace would have laughed while smiling and here he was, SMILING!
"Your two senior partners just called," he said sarcastically. "We're selling 100% of our production and they want to know if we can bring Five and Six online. I told them that we should be able to shortly."
"HORACE! Five and Six are still being tested. They've just seated in and are still being adjusted and fine tuned, they're not up to production yet. Next they'll want Seven and Eight! They've been installed also you know!" I said sarcastically.
"As a matter of fact..." he smiled.
"NO! No WAY! Five I can probably give you, I'm pretty confident that it'll take a partial load, at least up to 50%, maybe up to 60%, Six is iffy, we're still doing major tuning on it. Seven and Eight are out of the question. They've been installed but that's all. They haven't even been bolted down, the bolts are only on finger tight. We haven't even started to check balances, calibration, load factors, harmonics or anything. Right now we're just letting them settle into place."
These were especially designed turbines and VERY heavy. You had to let them settle after being installed. If you tried to lock them down too soon, before they had settled fully, they could develop a vibration under a heavy load. A vibration would cause a fluctuation in the harmonics which could prove disastrous. A vibration alone, depending on how bad, could rip the generator from its pilings allowing it to beat itself to death against everything in here, taking the others with it in one big chain reaction. When the vibrations got to a certain pitch they began to hum, a harmonic. Something about the harmonic vibration made them even worse, they could feed off one another if you didn't stay on top of them. If all eight generators began to produce harmonics they would act like a orchestra playing its own symphony. However the music they played was DEADLY! On top of THAT all the live steam from all the severed piping it would rip out when it let go would cook anything or anyone that was left!
Horace stopped smiling. He turned those turrets he called eyes on me. "Place Five and Six online and Seven and Eight on standby. They want more power being sold and I told them we could do it. Do it NOW!"
"Horace Malcolm, under YOUR direct orders, AFTER being informed by your design engineers that the generators are unsafe as they are at present, that they are dangerous and that they are NOT ready for use, you still insist on placing them online, then so be it! Under protest and against everything that I have told you, you order me to power them up then on YOUR head be the results." All that prattle was for the Inquiry Board when they tried to blame US even after we told him it was unsafe.
Walking over to the control panel I turned on the water and then brought the mirrors for Five and Seven into position. After fine tuning the glasses I held down the starter button until the Tach showed the proper speed and then engaged it. Moving from one to the other I started all four of the idle turbines. I adjusted the settings and let them settle in a bit. I had them set at 10% as I checked over things.
I could already see a flutter in Seven and an even worse one is Eight. When I started to shut them down Horace stopped me. "They're within safety limits, let them run."
"Horace, look at this," I said pointing to the gauge. It was showing the slight flutters, the pulse monitors were showing the same thing only magnified and I pointed it out as well. Seven was bad, but Eight was much worse. While they were just within the limits we had set they were also only at 10% capacity, if they were increased at all they would very probably tear loose. "They haven't even been locked down yet, remember?"
"They're within safety limits, LET THEM RUN!"
That's the problem with cutting edge technology, no one wants to listen when you try to explain the limits. No one KNEW what the limits were, we were developing them as we went! I could already feel a harmonic vibration from Eight. Horace had book knowledge of this stuff but no real hands on experience, all of his experience had been back east on oil burning plants and even then it was inside, not the actual production. Jason and I had DEVELOPED it but he didn't want to listen to us when we told him NO after he had gone out on a limb and told the bosses he could do it.
"You know the operation of this station, MISTER Malcolm, I'm telling you that these generators are NOT ready, they're NOT safe. They still need weeks of work before they WILL be ready, they are dangerous, it's all yours now. You want to sow the wind, then you can reap the whirlwind, you asshole. You are going to kill everyone in this control room and I don't intent to be one of them. By the clock on the wall, the one we work from, it is 1:32 pm and I QUIT!" I said as I gathered my things. Jason was shaking his head and was two steps behind me.
"You two will never work in power production again! I'll see to that," shouted Horace as we closed the huge metal security door to the control room and walked away. The harmonic vibrations were less out here but I knew that Horace would increase the steam flow to both of the bad ones shortly. It would then be a race to see which one tore free first!
On the way out we stopped by the Security station where there was a specially designed metal box. Inside was a recorder that made a record of everything that went on in the control room, both picture and audio. There was also a recorder that made a record of the readings on the turbines, both actual readings from the gauges as well as from the pulse monitor. This was a repeater that magnified the original readings so we could see any fluctuations better. Changing the disks I took the records of our trying to stop Horace along with us as we left the plant.
So much for a dream!
Five Years Earlier
For years I had been tinkering with an idea for steam generated power. That was nothing new as it is used back east all the time. It was the method of producing the steam that was new, I wanted it to be solar powered. More electricity is used in the summer time to cool buildings, offices and homes than any other time. What if we could use the heat of the sun against itself? Use the heat to produce the electricity to power the air conditioners to cool the buildings!
We could take an eastern power station and remove the fire from the boilers. The water tanks, the steam turbines, the recovery system would all be the same, just the means of producing the heat would be different. I had read of offices in Japan where they had large tracking mirrors on the roof. The mirrors reflected the sun onto a huge bundle of fiber optic strands that took sunlight all through the office building.
My idea entailed the use of those same tracking mirrors to reflect the sun THROUGH a huge magnifying glass to intensify the light and heat, bringing the focal point onto an array of pipes holding the water. As the water was turned to steam it would spin the turbine and produce power just like now. That in a nutshell was my idea, I just hadn't figured out how to bring all the components together yet.
Gathering information on the tracking system for the mirrors was simple, I found it online. Checking some of the Steam Hobbyist online I found a power station as well. They even had a schematic of their little power plant to show how each component hooked together to produce electricity from steam. I used their plans and simply enlarged it, I just did away with the boiler to heat the water for steam.
Steam turbines I could find, developing a program to allow the mirrors to track the sun was easy, every step along the way was do-able IF I could find a large enough magnifying glass. The only people around that I knew of that might use something that large were the astronomers. I just had to find out where they
purchased their lenses for their large telescopes.
At our local Hobby store I checked some of the magazines they had on Astronomy. Like many hobby magazines in the rear there were many ads for different components, including lenses.
As I was checking out the man at the register was very friendly. "I see you're interested in Astronomy, any aspect of it in particular?"
With a brief laugh and a shake of my head I told him, "I don't know one star from another. I even confuse our own planets with stars I'm so bad. No, I just want some information on lenses and there are several ads in the rear of this magazine I thought I'd check out."
.... There is more of this story ...