As the hunger for electric power is growing rapidly around the world, David Zabetakis, president of the Doble Engineering Co., is acutely aware of the pressure that this demand is placing on the existing grids that deliver the power.
This is the first year Doble Engineering has hosted the Finepoint Circuit Breaker Test Conference, which has been running for 20 years — every fourth year returning to Atlanta. This year the event was held from Oct. 7-10 and drew 485 attendees representing 200 companies.
Twenty companies from abroad and 16 Georgia-based companies were among those represented at the conference.
Whatever the source of the power, the grid through which it passes must be safe and reliable to benefit the end user, Mr. Zabetakis said during an interview with Global Atlanta.
While this comment on its surface seems obvious enough, he underscored the new pressures being put on the grids by big data and developing technologies in addition to the traditional ones of inclement weather and regular wear and tear.
Beyond these increasing demands, the industry is facing another major issue: aging. Not just the grid itself, but the workers who are responsible for its daily upkeep.
“The U.S. power grid is one of the most stable in the world,” he said, “but it is aging and so are the people who maintain it.”
He added that 40 percent of the current workforce is eligible to retire, and will leave significant gaps in personnel and knowledge..
New recruits will need to be constantly trained, he added, as new equipment is developed. In view of all the changes affecting the grid, instead of electric workers climbing the poles and fixing the lines, they are more likely in the future to be analyzing information on their iPads and monitoring the grids’ operations.
Mr. Zabetakis praised Hitachi HVB Inc., the Tokyo-based electronic company with a facility in Suwanee, and Southern States LLC, the Hampton, Ga.-based manufacturer of high-voltage switching devices for opening their local factories to the attendees.
He added that it was the willingness of these companies to provide the access that assured the conference’s return to Atlanta.
“To be able to see how the equipment is put together gives those in the power stations a better understanding of what they are working with,” he said.
Over the course of four days, the attendees received hands-on circuit breaker training, switchgear and substation maintenance and testing strategies.
With a presence in 110 countries, Doble Engineering has been in the business of helping its clients improve their operations and adopt best practices in the industry. Doble is part of the Utility Solutions Group of ESCO Technologies Inc.