I would like to talk, a little bit, about some of the problems that are encountered when starting up a steam power plant, from scratch, with only enough auxiliary power to operate a River Pump and a few light bulbs.
First of all, we had to get up at least 150 pounds of steam pressure in one of the boilers, because it took that much to operate the G-E turbine. In a plant with tall stacks that would be no problem because they would provide sufficient natural draft to get under way. We had short stacks and used forced and induced draft fans to get air into and the gasses out of the furnaces. All of the auxiliaries were powered by electricity which we did not have until we could get a generator on the line.
We would fill a boiler, usually the bark burner, with a fire hose and build a wood fire in the furnace. After what seemed like an eternity, a little pressure would start to show up, on the gauge. We didn’t dare to waste any of the steam that was being generated, because once the pressure started to rise, we could no longer get water into the boiler. We did, however, need to heat up the steam lines and the headers, so that no water would go over into the turbine.
When I felt that we had enough steam, I would start the turbine. Under ordinary circumstances, you would let a machine, like the GE, run at a low speed for at least 15 or 20 minutes to be sure that all of the rotary elements were evenly warmed up. In a case like ours such a procedure was not possible because that much steam was not available. I would give the headers a good blow and start the turbine right off, hoping that it would warm up evenly and not start vibrating due to uneven heat in the spindle. I never damaged anything but I did have some scarry moments.
One thing in our favor was that the exciter for the G-E was direct connected to the alternator shaft, so that the field and the line voltage came up along with the turbine speed. If all went well the steam would last until the turbine reached operating speed. When full speed was reached and the turbine governor took over, I would open the Virginia Electric Power Company switch and tear down to the other end of the switchboard and close the G-E breaker, which would energize the station buss with all kinds of power. When the boiler room crew saw all of the lights go out and then come right back on, much brighter than before, they would start their fans and boiler feed water pumps and begin breathing again.
Later on the owners figured out that they needed to install a larger Power Company connection, one that had capacity to operate a river pump, a boiler feed pump and the condensate pump on the G-E turbine, as well as lights enough to be able to see what you were doing. After that ,we were able to start up the way that a plant should be started.
That was a well thought out power company connection. We could parallel our on coming generator with their line but the instant that our switch closed, their breaker, to us, opened. There was no way that we could stay in parallel with them and there was no reason why we would want to. When the “closed” indicator light, on our on coming generator control panel, came on it energized the trip coil on their breaker and dropped them off the line. The system worked just great, and after that, it was no trick, at all, to start the plant up. The irony was that by that time most of the boiler problems were over and we didn’t have to start up nearly as often as before.