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Meltdown

After one of our clients had an FM station go off the air over the weekend, I investigated and found this:

Transformer melt down

Transformer melt down

Looks like something one might find in the reactor room at Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Transformer melted down

Transformer melted down

This is at one of those sites with three phase open delta power.  Needless to say, the transformer is toast, perhaps the entire transmitter too.  This will be another fun transmitter scrapping project.  I was thinking about this; over the last five years, I have scrapped at least ten to fifteen old tube transmitters.  The old tube types are going away fast, as are those that can still work on them.

Good only in Europe

And some parts of Asia:

Equipment rack outlet with 220 Volts to ground.

Equipment rack outlet with 220 Volts to ground.

It seems the power company has some work to do. The other leg measures 28 volts to ground, which to me means the Neutral has been lost somewhere. Fortunately, the transmitter was running on 240, which looks normal on the voltmeter. Everything in the rack; the remote control, exciter, STL, etc has been damaged or destroyed.

Then of course, there is this:

Utility line

Utility line

That is the power and phone line in those trees, as it leaves the road and travels approximately 1,700 feet through the woods.  It is a private line and the utility will not do any work until the trees are cleared away.  In all fairness to the current owners, who have owned the station for not quite a year, this situation has been like this for a long time.

The rotary phase maker

I alluded to this in an earlier post: Open Delta three phase service.  Some transmitter sites are fairly remote and three phase power is not available.  Occasionally, with lower powered radio stations, this is acceptable because those transmitters can be configured to run on single phase power.  However, almost any transmitter above five kilowatts or so will require three phase power.  This is the case at the WQBJ transmitter site in Palatine Bridge, NY.  The site is located in the middle of farm land and only has single phase service.  The nearest three phase service is several miles away and the utility company wants several hundred thousand dollars to upgrade the line.

WQBJ transmitter site electrical service

WQBJ transmitter site electrical service

The station is a class B FM with a six bay full wave spaced antenna.  Even so, the TPO is 17 KW, which makes some type of three phase service a requirement.

WQBJ six bay Shively 6810 antenna

WQBJ six bay Shively 6810 antenna

The main transmitter is a Broadcast Electronics FM30B, which is now 25 years old.

WQBJ main transmitter, Broadcast Electronics FM30B

WQBJ main transmitter, Broadcast Electronics FM30B

The backup transmitter is a CSI FM20T, which is almost forty years old.

WQBJ backup transmitter, CSI FM20T

WQBJ backup transmitter, CSI FM20T

Rather than do an open delta service, which is not desirable for several reasons, both transmitters have their own rotary phase makers.  From a reliability and redundancy standpoint, this is the right way to equip this site.  The rotary phase makers are essentially a motor generator combination which takes the split phase power and generates a third phase.

WQBJ phasemaster, backup three phase converter

WQBJ Phasemaster type T, backup three phase converter

Phasemaster parallel connection diagram

Phasemaster parallel connection diagram

The phasemaster is is a 40 KVA unit and is connected to the backup CSI transmitter

WQBJ Roto Phase, main three phase rotary converter

WQBJ ARCO Roto Phase, main three phase rotary converter

The Roto Phase unit for the main transmitter is actually two 40 KVA units connected in parallel through dry core isolation transformers.  Incidentally, the Roto Phase units need to have their bearings changed every ten years or so.  This requires the units be disconnected, placed up on their end.  To get the old bearing out, the housing has to be cooled with liquid CO2.  Both units are due for new bearings soon, which should be a pleasant job indeed.

The open delta three phase service

Several months ago, I drove up to an FM transmitter site, looked up at the utility pole and saw this:

Three Phase open delta transformer bank

Three Phase open delta transformer bank

Three phase open delta is a bad hombre.  Most, if not all, transmitter manufactures will void the warranty of any transmitter connected to a service like this.  What is perplexing is it appears that all three phases are available on the primary side, why would this be necessary? Perhaps it was not always so at this location.  Regardless, this was the source of power for 20 KW FM transmitters since 1958 until we moved it to a new building last month.

According to a GE publication on transformers, open delta 3 phase power is undesirable because:

Although this connection delivers three-phase currents which are approximately symmetrical to a three-phase symetrical load, the currents flowing in the high voltage circuit are not equal nor are they 120 degrees apart.  The maximum safe output of the bank operating in this manner is 58% of a 3 pot Wye/Delta bank. The system is grossly unbalanced, both electrostatically and electromagnetically.

Schematically, it looks like this:

3 Phase open delta power

3 Phase open delta power

Regular 3 phase delta looks like this:

3 phase delta power

3 phase delta power

Most utility companies will not hook up 3 phase delta on the customer side anymore because the the “high” or “wild” leg, which as shown in the diagram runs a good deal higher than 120 volts to neutral.  Hook up a high leg to a single phase 120 volt piece of equipment and wait for the power supply to blow up.  Also true with 277 volt lighting circuits, as my assistant once found out with the Coke Machine in the break room.  New 3 phase service will almost invariably be 208 wye unless there is some very compelling reason, which is fine.

There are many ways to get around three phase open delta, perhaps the best is a rotary phase converter.  This piece of equipment will take a 240 volt split phase and add a third leg.  These legs will not be 120 degrees apart, as they would be in a true three phase, however, they will be close enough that 3 phase motors and transformers will be happy.

Rotary Phase converter

Rotary Phase converter

This leads to an unbalanced voltage/current condition which needs to be accounted for in the design of the unit.  The second way to do this is to power a three phase generator with a split phase motor.  This will completely isolate the 3 phase equipment from the utility service and provide for true three phase power.

The downside to any motor/generator or rotary converter is moving parts and conversion inefficiencies.  At any transmitter site that uses this type of equipment, either a backup power converter or a lower power split phase backup transmitter should be installed.  With all mechanical things, eventually this will need to be repaired and it would suck to be off air while that is happening.

Regardless of any of that, this particular service is about to be disconnected permanently.  Good riddance.

Underground Electrical feeder burn out

In the never ending saga of things I have not yet seen, we had a 350 kcml 3 phase underground feeder burn out yesterday at our AM transmitter site.

Actually, it happened the day before, around noon.  I received a call from the remote control that we were on the backup generator.  Upon arriving at the site, I found several trees down on the three phase primary down the street.  I figured that was the cause.  After checking the generator fuel supply, oil pressure, temperature, phase volts/amps, I decided that everything was okay and the power company would be along shortly to restore power.  I then continued up the road to our FM site to do weekly maintenance.

Upon returning to the office several hours later, I looked at the utility company website.  They have a pretty cool interactive map application that shows all outages and give restoration times.  The area around our transmitter site showed no outages, therefore I figured it had been cleared.

I committed two errors here:

  1. Not calling the utility company myself to ensure that the outage was reported.  I assumed that the tree across the three phase primary was the cause, it was not.
  2. Not calling the transmitter site remote control to check the generator status after I checked the website.

To be honest, I don’t know if I am coming or going these days.  With seven radio stations, each with it’s own transmitter site, three of them Directional AM stations, and three studio locations spread out over a 75 mile stretch, it is difficult to keep up with the small details.  Did I mention that I am solo, the engineering assistant position was cut two years ago.  But, I am not here to make excuses…

The net result is the generator ran all night long.  The next day, when I checked the transmitter in the morning, I was surprised to find the generator still running.  Unfortunately, I had an FM station on low power (see post below) that needed to be taken care of first.  When I finished replacing the RF module in the FM transmitter, I made my way to the AM site.

I called the power company then checked the generator fuel, the propane tank was down to 10%.  Yikes, better get this taken care of fast.  I will say the power company showed up pretty quickly.  After some measurements with a hand held meter, it was determined that the under ground feeder was open between the pole and the transmitter building.

The line man was not at all surprized, in fact, he called it before he even went up in the bucket truck.  After some back and forth with his supervisor, who came out in a pick up truck, it was decided that they would run a temporary overhead feed to the meter can.

temporary overhead electrical feeder

temporary overhead electrical feeder

They also did some research in there records and discovered that they (the utility company) own the underground cable and therefore they would dig it up and fix it.  That’s nice because otherwise it seems like it would be an expensive repair job.  On a station that makes not a lot of money.

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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