Nancy Gross 2015-11-16 15:38:59
Boilers might be some of the unsung heroes of the civilized world. Even though some are substantial in size, they almost seem too basic to say much about, and yet they are crucial to comfort, hygiene, industrial processes, sterilization, food preparation, and power generation—all kinds of activities discovered to be possible because of hot water and steam. So, as simple as heating water may seem, there are many subtleties involved due to the material a boiler is fabricated from; flow in and out; temperature, pumps; heat exchangers; and maintenance of these ubiquitous, essential machines, which are given a good discussion in our “Boilers and Efficiency” article (page 30). Steven Johnson, in the book How We Got to Now, Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, calls a milestone on Earth just over 100 years ago as big as any in human evolution. It would have been notable to any outsider watching from space, “arguably the single most significant change in the planet’s history since the Chicxulub asteroid collided with Earth sixty-five million years ago.” He is speaking of the expansion of artificial lighting, and, importantly, boilers had part in letting there be light. Thomas Edison made lasting impacts when he got electric light produced in London, and then Lower Manhattan. According to Wikipedia: “The first public power station was the Edison Electric Light Station, built in London at 57, Holborn Viaduct, which started operation in January 1882. . . . A Babcock and Wilcox boiler—which used water filled tubes and nucleate boiling to generate steam more safely than either under-fire or fire-tube boilers—powered a 125-horsepower steam engine that drove a 27-ton generator called ‘Jumbo’ after the celebrated elephant” ( http://bitly/1NfMNd3). The power station lit up the lamps on Holborn Viaduct, as well as the City Temple, the Old Bailey, and the Telegraph Office. The Pearl Street Station is considered the first central power plant in the US, built by Edison Illuminating Company and operational in September 1882. It provided light to 82 customers, relying on coal-fired boilers and reciprocating steam engines to run its generators, called dynamos. Boilers helped make power and electric light possible, and the value of electric lighting drove demand for additional power stations. Some—including Pearl Street—were cogeneration plants that brought district heating, distributing steam to local manufacturers and warming buildings. One hundred and thirty years down the road we live lives that are fully powered, well lit, and comfortable, due to sophisticated thermal control of our environments. The technology, commerce, and recreation that appeared because of the original framework could not have been imagined. However, how we produce and use power and manage equipment, including boilers and other HVAC components and lights, now takes into account a changing world. From November 30 to December 11, just after this issue of Business Energy is released, the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference will take place in Paris. An energy and environment story in the New York Times on October 16, “Oil and Gas Companies Make Statement in Support of UN Climate Goals” ( http://nyti.ms/1WdOZWf ), lists 10 of the world’s big energy companies, primarily European and including BP Oil, publicly acknowledging that their industry needs to help address climate change and stave off a rise in atmospheric temperature of 3.6°F. There are a lot of interesting things going on with climate and energy efficiency in mind. Our “Turbines and Non-Traditional Fuels” article (page 10) looks at cases where turbines are being used as parts of larger renewable and environment-conscious projects involving solar arrays, waste gas, biomass, and waste coal. Cogeneration, something which languished for many decades, has been making a strong comeback, and we discuss this in a sidebar to our “Quiet Quest” article (“Thinking Inside the Box”, page 20). And, don’t miss “Industrial Phase In” (page 38), with specifics on where industry will find the most value if switching to LED lighting in stages. The consensus has been coming that, while power is needed and wanted (we will continue to boil water, turn on lamps, and condition our spaces), we will also adapt and innovate for a sustainable future.
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