By John B. SnyderOctober 24, 2013
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Oct. 24, 2013) -- Eighty years ago, Albert Einstein arrived in the United States as a refugee from Nazi Germany, the U.S. Army's disciplinary barracks on Alcatraz Island turned into a federal prison, and a power substation at the Watervliet Arsenal was installed.
Although Einstein has since died and the Alcatraz federal prison closed, the arsenal substation has continued to support critical infrastructure at the arsenal since 1933. That is, until this month.
After more than 700,000 hours of continuous service, the arsenal's electrical engineer shut off power to this relay station today, while sending power through a new $669,000 substation.
"If the last substation could last for 80 years, I have no doubt that this state of the art substation will last 100 years," said Benjamin Dedjoe, the arsenal's electrical engineer who designed and supervised the electrical requirements for the project.
This was no easy task as the project took two years to complete, Dedjoe said.
The new station will provide power to more facilities, in larger quantities than the 1933 model, and will do so more safely. This new substation is computerized and has its control panels in a hardened shelter.
"The old substation required us to work outside often in harsh weather conditions to service it or to do routine maintenance," Dedjoe said. "With today's transfer of power through a new substation we now have a safer, dryer area from which to conduct maintenance or to respond to a circuit breaker that has been triggered."
This electrical upgrade is just one part of a two-year, multimillion dollar program the arsenal has undertaken to increase the arsenal's capability to provide continuous power to critical operations and infrastructure.
Last November, the largest electrical upgrade the Arsenal had experienced in 30 years, a $1.7 million project for a new electrical substation that feeds power to one of the most critical manufacturing processes called the rotary forge, was put into operation.
More recently, a $750,000 electrical project put in place a fire alarm system in one of the most critical manufacturing buildings on the arsenal.
These were no small tasks for the Arsenal's electrical engineer and Jim Uram, an arsenal electrical specialist, who assisted Dedjoe.
Uram said the hardest part of any electrical upgrade is the synchronization of turning off and turning on power while manufacturing operations are running.
"It may take us more than eight hours to transition from one power source to another," Uram said. "The key to success is to make that transition as seamless as possible without any interruption to the machining of products for our troops."
Dedjoe said he didn't yet know what he was going to do with the 1933 substation. But seeing as it looks like it came out of an old Frankenstein movie, he may just keep it as an historical artifact to put into the arsenal's museum activity when it reopens in 2015 or 2016.
The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th year of continuous service to the nation on July 14, 2013.
Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million.