Western Turbine still growing, still innovating to better serve aero users

Western Turbine Users Inc, the world’s largest independent organization of gas-turbine owner/operators, celebrates 28 years of service to the industry at its 2018 Conference and Expo, next March 18-21 in Palm Springs, Calif. Sounds like a long way off, but it’s not too early to make a note on your calendar and begin lobbying for travel funds. Registration opens November 1, which offers the opportunity to apply 2017 budget surplus to next year’s meeting.

WTUI President Chuck Casey, utility generation manager for Riverside (Calif) Public Utilities, brought participants in the March 2017 meeting in Las Vegas up to date on the organization’s activities and health—nothing but good news. Casey, who has chaired the meeting since the 2013 retirement of immediate past president Jon Kimble, does an outstanding job of keeping members informed.

His hour-long presentation was crisp and eclectic—including messages of importance and those not so important, WTUI business matters, industry highlights, etc—holding audience interest the entire time. Most importantly, Casey began with a safety message, showing the thousand or so attendees in the cavernous ballroom how to exit the South Point Hotel & Spa quickly if need be.

He stressed courtesy and respect among all presenters and attendees and requested no photography or recording of presentations.

This was WTUI’s first trip to Las Vegas since 2001, Casey recalled. In the intervening years, the LM2500 fleet had grown by 300%, the LM6000 fleet by 350%. The LMS100, today an important breakout session for the user group, wouldn’t debut at Basin Electric Power Co-op’s Groton Generation Station in South Dakota until 2006. Also of note:

      • WTUI membership, 169 in 2001, stands at 1050 today.

      • Meeting attendance in 2001 was 713, this year more than 1100.

      • Exhibit-hall booth space nearly doubled from 143 in 2001 to 256 in 2017.

      • Room rates decreased over the years, from $94 to $70.

Casey’s day job requires him to keep his hand on the pulse of the industry to help guide decision-making at Riverside Public Utilities. Briefly, he shared knowledge on three of what he considers top non-turbine concerns:

      • Cybersecurity.

      • Digital assets.

      • Customer service and transparency.

And then on three observations impacting turbine asset management today:

      • It’s less about reliability and availability, and

      • More about cycling, turndown, emissions, ancillary services, and shorter outages.

      • Relevancy.

Casey next offered a few thoughts on the impacts on the electric power industry of the following:

      • Today’s focus on the environment, as indicated by installation of the most photovoltaic generation in history last year, renewables reaching grid parity (gas versus wind), and load defection attributed to solar and storage. Another milestone: Electric production nationwide from gas passed that of coal in 2017.

      • Inexpensive natural gas.

      • Commercialization of advanced technologies.

      • Impact of demanding load swings for conventional generation assets.

      • Online devices and smart homes.

      • Policies and regulations.

      • Rate design.

Casey is not the type to sit back and make decisions based on what others think. He rolls up his sleeves and opens up his wallet to get first-hand experience. The Western Turbine leader brought attendees up to date on what he calls the Casey Energy Center—residential self-generation. Many in the room were aware of his “experiment” from previous presentations. The utility’s December 2016 statement he showed revealed the following:

      • Average daily electricity usage (utility supplied power) for the month of December in 2017 was 3.7 kWh. That’s about half of the 7.03 kWh/day in December 2016; two Decembers ago the number was 6.06 kWh.

      • Total consumption for December 2016 was 481 kWh. Self generation totaled 370 kWh. Thus Casey had to buy only 111 kWh.

      • In February, March, April, and May 2016 Casey Energy Center produced more power than it needed.

He also put up a chart of rooftop PV production hourly for several days in May 2016. Peak production each day was about 0.5 kWh during the noon hour. The inescapable conclusion from Casey’s data: Rooftop solar can dramatically reduce residential consumption of utility power—at least in Riverside, Calif, and other areas bathed in sunlight.

Next, the weekend car buff will put an electric vehicle through its paces to quantify its expected benefits. That research project will begin as soon as the Tesla Model 3 on order arrives. The unknown only seems to heighten Casey’s interest as evidenced by the slide he showed with a quote from engineer/author R R Whyte: “Progress is the art of getting out of trouble you wouldn’t have been in if it was not for progress.”

He then wondered out loud about the future of gas turbines given the aggressive nature of some proposed Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), such as the following:

      • California’s proposed 50% RPS by 2025.

      • Nevada’s consideration of an 80% renewables mandate by 2040.

      • New Mexico’s SB-312 with an RPS goal of 80% by 2040.

      • Hawaii’s 100% renewables goal by 2045.

      • Oregon’s passed 50% mandate by 2040.

Energy storage targets also are on the horizon, he said.

Casey urged the membership to be positive, stay relevant, and make progress.

The value of Western Turbine meetings to owner/operators was the president’s next topic. He touted a conference atmosphere conducive to self improvement. Challenge yourself, he said, and then challenge the OEM and the suppliers in the exhibition hall. “Be the leader and innovator,” Casey continued. “Turn failure into success.” Low-hanging fruit grows back, he reminded.

The president continued with introductions of key staff, officers, board of directors, and breakout-session chairs. In the process, he announced the retirement of Secretary Alvin Boyd, also co-manager of the exhibit hall, who served the group unselfishly for years in various capacities. In related news, Devin Chapin completed his three-year term as a board member and Jermaine Woodall transitioned from the board to secretary, replacing Boyd. Wayne Feragen of Noresco and Al Vanhart of PSEG Power LLC were elected to the board, filling the two vacant positions.

Casey concluded his presentation with details on several administrative matters, a cursory review of the agenda, and what he called 2017 conference fun facts—including these:

      • Countries represented, 20.

      • States represented, 41.

      • States with the greatest representation: California, 228; Texas, 111; Florida, 64; Ohio, 46.

      • Companies represented in the exhibit hall, 156.

      • First-time vendors, 26.

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