Central Power Plant Team – Steam and software running a modern power plant

November 21, 2019

From street side, the Central Power Plant (CPP) looks like something out of a noir movie. Walking by it, you can hear a distant hum as steam continually rises from its tower-like smokestacks. But inside, it’s run by a dedicated team, who are proud of the plant and their work keeping the campus warm, cool, and bright!

While the plant was built in 1918, it has a state-of-the-art control room with blinking computer monitors hooked up to very large and much newer turbines and boilers. The team continuously observes these systems 24/7/365, in addition to walking the plant listening and looking for any issues. Then, if necessary, quickly jumping into action if an adjustment or repair is needed.

The CPP team consists of licensed operators, oilers, mechanics, watch engineers, and managers. They work three shifts throughout the year handling operational tasks, daily maintenance, troubleshooting, and resolving technical issues. Also, the managers and operators often work with contractors to install new equipment or remove old pieces.

Campus buildings run on the utilities the plant generates including: steam heat, chilled water, and electricity—from Science Hill to Old Campus and everywhere in between. Only a handful of locations on central campus are not on this system. Plant operators are responsible for starting up and shutting down pieces of equipment as needed. That requires watching the systems from the control room and doing scheduled rounds on the plant floor. “Most importantly, we are responsible for keeping the plant running safely and reliably,” said Troy Nevells, power plant manager, Yale Central Utilities.

Safety is their main priority. Before beginning work on some equipment, the operators must make it safe for mechanics to fix or replace. They complete a lock out, tag out process–closing valves for instance, before a turbine, boiler, or pipe can be examined for any issues, or when weather-related preventative maintenance needs to be provided. “This team is very proud of their work, you can see it on the plant floor. It’s clean, clutter free, and well kept. We understand how important what we do is to the campus community. We take that very seriously” said Troy.

All team members must also dress for safety, donning hard hats and safety glasses and walk the plant in protective steel-toed shoes. Some of the standard tools of the trade include very large valve wrenches and heat guns. And while the plant has been modernized over the years, paper log sheets are still used when checking on various pieces of equipment.

The plant’s latest iteration happened in 2016 when Yale Facilities upgraded the co-generation system that was originally installed in the 1990s. A co-generation system supplies both steam and electricity and prior to the 1990s the CPP only supplied steam and chilled water. “Today we have a much more reliable system for steam, chilled water, and electricity,” said Troy.

Very big shout out of thanks to this team who keeps the lights on and the heat going! It is greatly appreciated!

Fun Facts:

  • Each year the CPP offers about a dozen tours of the facility - mostly to students studying engineering or mechanics.
  • Peak load time is during the summer to support air conditioning systems.
  • Every hour of every day of the year, including Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s, the plant’s machinery runs!
  • The gas turbines generate around ninety decibels of noise—so plant staff must wear ear plugs.
  • Steam generated by the plant is mainly disbursed to buildings via underground tunnels.
  • If one of the main turbines goes down, they have three backup boilers. So the lights and heat will stay on!
  • Original fuel used by the plant was coal, then oil, and now gas as the primary fuel source.

In 2009, a brand-new remote chiller plant was built on Winchester Avenue behind the parking garage. The plant, with it’s own dedicated team has the capacity to be built out as the campus grows. More on that plant and team in a future issue of “Inside Facilities.”

Meet the CPP team:

  • Adams, David - Watch Engineer
  • Baldo, Mark -Mechanic
  • Bruel, Jeff - Oiler
  • Bublitz, Robert - Watch Engineer
  • Cielsielski, Philip- Oiler
  • Ferrara, Fred, - Utilities Plant Technician
  • Foelske, Bernie - Oiler
  • Gravel, Dave - Oiler
  • Hubert, John - Oiler
  • Hurlbert, Robert  - Watch Engineer
  • Jehan, Josh - Utilities Plant Technician
  • Kausyla , Ed - Oiler
  • Kirschner, Bob - Watch Engineer
  • Kraguljac, Simo - Assistant Plant Manager
  • Mangler, Jeff - Oiler
  • McMann, Chris - Day Watch Engineer
  • Sullivan, Mark - Controls Mechanic
  • Yazdzik, Matt - Controls Mechanic