THE POWER PLANT
Tendency Toward Economy of Operation Fuel and Labor Saving Devices In Demand Boiler Room Should Be Up-to-Date and Efficient
THOUGH not as quick to adopt new innovations as similar plants in industrial fields, municipal water works plants soon begin to reflect the new tendencies whether these be in the direction of new types of equipment or the adoption of auxiliaries designed to make operation more economical. A quarter century ago, a water works power plant meant only one thing— a battery of steam boilers, and two or three big pumping unit, the pumps of the reciprocating type being built integral with the steam engines which drove them. There are still many of this type being built but the choice of the water engineer is no longer restricted to this single type. In fact, it is no longer possible to visualize the power plant of a modern water works off hand, since it may beany one of two or three radically different types. First, and still in the majority, is the direct steam driven plunger pump unit just mentioned and which has become familiar through so mauy years of use.
Then there is the centrifugal type of station which bears about the same relation to its predecessor where size is concerned, as a motor boat does to an ocean liner. This may be either steam turbine driven or electrically driven. In either case, the boiler room will be quite as much a feature as in the older stations, while in the latter there will be two engine rooms, one in which the steam power is converted into electricity either by a reciprocating engine and generator, or a turbo-generator, and the other the pump room. In some instances, electrical power may be bought from the local lighting company or taken from a long distance high tension transmission line, while in still others a gas or oil engine may be the prime mover and in many its energy will be devoted to compressing air instead of to driving pumps direct.
Just what a power plant consists of nowadays depends entirely upon where it is, since in recent years there are few towns and villages too small not to have their own water supply system—something which was practically unknown twenty years previous. Power plants of the types suited for small centers, however, are treated in greater detail under special heads, such as Electric Motors, Gas and Oil Engines. The present heading has to do more with the big steam power plants found in the larger towns and cities. These plants are old established institutions, many of them having been in service continuously for a quarter of a century or more. The tendency that is noticeable in them and that will take substantial form to a far greater extent during the coming year than ever before, is the adoption of auxiliary equipment to make their operation more economical.
These old plants and a great many others that were installed much more recently, were put up at a time when labor was comparatively cheap and coal sold for very much less than it does now. They were accordingly hand fired and ashes were disposed of in the same costly manner as the coal was handled. Fuel and labor are both too high to permit of this practice of mechanical stokers for feeding the furnaces and equally cheap and effective means of disposing of the ashes. With the release of the fire room force from the drudgery of handling coal and cinders is apt to come better boiler room practice, flues and tubes will be cleaned oftener, leaky retaining walls will be taken care of and heat losses checked wherever possible.
Service in the boiler room of a water works plant has always been regarded as an easy job, but the greatly increased demands of recent years which have brought many plants up to or even beyond their maximum capacity has changed this somewhat. The adoption of modern stokers, ash handling devices and other equipment designed not alone to eliminate hand labor, but to effect other economies as well, will restore the easy job but with far better working conditions. There is no reason why the boiler room of a modern water works should not be as up-to-date and efficient as that of any industrial plant.