Power for the future

Randy Ortgiesen, head of the Facilities Engineering Services Section, wrote this column.

Randy Ortgiesen

The proposed FY13 budget and its Congressional mark-ups include line-item funding for important utility upgrades at Fermilab as part of the Science Laboratory Infrastructure program. The upgrades will help improve the reliability of our site’s high-voltage electrical and industrial cooling water systems. Project Engineering and Design funds are proposed for FY13 with construction immediately to follow in FY14, with a total project cost of $36 million.

Representatives from the DOE Office of Science were recently on site to tour the areas considered for the upgrade project, which received DOE’s Critical Decision-1 (CD-1) approval in October of 2010. Since the project had experienced funding delays, the DOE team wanted to understand how the scope of the project may have changed. In particular, some minor parts of the project had to be completed over the last two years with laboratory operating funds since these urgent items couldn’t wait for the delayed funding.

The most pressing and largest part of the project is the replacement of the Master Substation building and equipment. This substation and its associated equipment receive electricity from the regional power grid at 345,000 volts and reduce the voltage to 13,800 volts for distribution throughout the laboratory. Originally constructed in 1970, it has become our laboratory’s most significant infrastructure vulnerability. The 42-year-old building contains equipment now considered technologically obsolete. As one enters the substation, it doesn’t take long to notice the old-fashioned paper charts and large, antiquated circuit breakers. Moving through the basement of the building isn’t much different from navigating through the passageways of a historic submarine.

Our high-voltage crews and electricians have successfully maintained the substation over the laboratory’s history, but replacement is the only feasible option to ensure the necessary high reliability. Keeping our fingers crossed for the planned funding, timing for completion of the new, state-of-the-art substation is very good in order to sustain laboratory operations. Additionally, it should be operating just in time for the grand opening of the Muon Campus, which will reuse the former Antiproton Source. Two new buildings in the campus will soon host the Muon g-2 and Mu2e experiments.