Episode 1 – Kerry Livingston

Kerry has worked as an electrical engineer in the utility industry for 27 years. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience. In our conversation she shares her experiences working as a physical substation engineer, working in contracts for a renewable energy company, and her college life. She provides insights into technical aspects of the work she does in addition to her perspectives on women in engineering.

Episode Notes

Music used in the podcast: Higher Up, Silverman Sound Studio

Acronyms and Definitions

NDSU– North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota

ROTC– Reserve Officers’ Training Corps

FORTRAN– a general-purpose, compiled imperative programming language that is especially suited to numeric computation and scientific computing. Revisions of FORTRAN are still used today.(Wikipedia)

PFC– Private First Class. E1 – Entry level in the military. E3 – Private First Class.

Renewable Power– energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlightwindraintideswaves, and geothermal heat. (Wikipedia)

Transmission– The movement of bulk electrical energy from a generating site, such as a power plant, to an electrical substation. The interconnected lines which facilitate this movement are known as a transmission network. (Wikipedia)

Generation– The process of generating electric power from sources of primary energy. For utilities in the electric power industry, it is the stage prior to its delivery to end users. (Wikipedia)

NERC– North American Electric Reliability Corporation – a not-for-profit international regulatory authority whose mission is to assure the effective and efficient reduction of risks to the reliability and security of the grid. NERC develops and enforces Reliability Standards; annually assesses seasonal and long‐term reliability; monitors the bulk power system through system awareness; and educates, trains, and certifies industry personnel. NERC’s area of responsibility spans the continental United States, Canada, and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico. NERC is the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) for North America, subject to oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and governmental authorities in Canada. NERC’s jurisdiction includes users, owners, and operators of the bulk power system, which serves more than 400 million people. (www.nerc.com)

SCADA– Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition – A collection of hardware and software that is used to remotely monitor and control the electric grid (SCADA can be used in other applications as well) for things such as generation, substations, transmission lines, etc. It is sometimes referred to as the “eyes and ears” of the electric utility.

Baseload Generation– T he minimum level of demand on an electrical grid over a span of time, for example, one week. This demand can be met by unvarying power plants, dispatchable generation,or by a collection of smaller intermittent energy sources,depending on which approach has the best mix of low cost, availability and high reliability in any particular market. (Wikipedia)

Central Power– Refers to the large-scale generation of electricity at centralized facilities. … Centralized generation facilities include fossil-fuel-fired power plants, nuclear power plants, hydroelectric dams, wind farms, and more. (www.epa.gov)

Distributed Generation– Refers to a variety of technologies that generate electricity at or near where it will be used, such as solar panels and combined heat and power. … In the residential sector, common distributed generation systems include: Solar photovoltaic panels. Small wind turbines. (www.epa.gov)

Microgrids– a small network of electricity users with a local source of supply that is usually attached to a centralized national grid but is able to function independently.(Wikipedia)

Battery Storage– a type of energy storage power station that uses a group of batteries to store electrical energy. (Wikipedia)

200 MW– A typical centralized, coal or nuclear power plant is around 1000 MW. The 200 MW battery storage plant would be considerably smaller than a large power plant, but is enough power to power approximately 200,000 homes. (www.mcginley.co.uk)

Typical solar farm size– Between 1 acre and 100 acres (www.solar-trade.org.uk)

Typical wind farm size– Between 5 and 150 wind turbines (www.alliantenergykids.com)

Optimal battery operating temperature– 77°F or 25°C

Nobel Climate Conference– The changes being wrought on the earth’s climate system are vast, without precedent, and of such magnitude and scale as to potentially alter life itself. Nobel Conference 55 asked “What tools are available, what research efforts do we require, and what kind of people do we need to be to conceptualize and address global climate challenges?” Nobel Conference 55 brought together seven leading thinkers to address climate change from perspectives including paleoclimate studies, climate justice, climate modeling, and climate adaptation. Attendees were encouraged to grapple with the causes and consequences of climate change and with our responses to the challenges it presents us, as individuals and as a society. (https://gustavus.edu/events/nobelconference/2019/)

Substation  – Transforms voltagefrom high to low, or the reverse, or perform any of several other important functions. Between the generating station and consumer, electric power may flow through several substations at different voltage levels. A substation may include transformers to change voltage levels between high transmission voltages and lower distribution voltages, or at the interconnection of two different transmission voltages.

Transformer– Apparatus for reducing or increasing the voltage of an alternating current.

Wave Trap–  A device that allow only a particular frequency to pass through it that it filters the signals coming on to it . So a wave trap is connected between buses and the transmission line which allow only 50 Hz (or 60 Hz in the US) signal to pass through it. (www.quora.com)

Control House– contains switchboard panels, batteries, battery chargers, supervisory control, power-line carrier, meters, and relays. The control house provides all weather protection and security for the control equipment. (www.osha.gov)

HVDC– High Voltage Direct Current – used to transmit electricity over long distances by overhead transmission lines or submarine cables. It is also used to interconnect separate power systems, where traditional alternating current (AC) connections cannot be used. (www.abb.com)

IEEE– Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers  – the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. (www.IEEE.org)

Nameplating– The Data on the Nameplate of transformers contains of kilowatt rating, voltage rating, frequency, number of phases, temperature, type of cooling, % impedance and reactance, name of manufacture, year of manufacture, etc.

Bushing– an insulated device that allows an electrical conductor to pass safely through a grounded conducting barrier such as the case of a transformer or circuit breaker. Bushings are typically made from porcelain; though other insulating materials are also possible, generally porcelain is used. (Wikipedia)

Overloading–Operating a piece of equipment at a higher voltage or current than it’s rated. This is not typically done in practice, but may be required when a circuit is taken out of service due to construction or maintenance.

Bio-medical Engineering– The application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology for healthcare purposes (e.g. diagnostic or therapeutic). This field seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine, combining the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical biological sciences to advance health care treatment, including diagnosismonitoring, and therapy. Also included under the scope of a biomedical engineer is the management of current medical equipment within hospitals while adhering to relevant industry standards. (Wikipedia)

Protective Relaying– a relay device designed to trip a circuit breaker when a fault is detected. (Wikipedia)

Please note –Don’t lick the terminals (or any part) of a battery!

Fact Check

The utility industry has the highest number of women CEOs than any other sector in the S&P 500. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-industry-with-the-most-female-ceos-isnt-what-youd-expect-1540267230)

There are some interesting articles about women’s representation in utilities that I came across during the fact check which I’m linking in case you are interested.


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