Beauty in the Beast-The World’s Most Powerful 1,800 rpm Single-Engine System-The Raleigh Downtown Development Project

May 1, 2004

The main unit weighs 55,000 lb. and is just less than 25 ft. long, and the system produces mega amounts of power. The engine has the capability of producing up to 4,036 hp with a displacement of 5,480 in.3 and a weight-to-power ratio of 5.2 lb./hp. The bottom line is that there’s beauty in this beast.

Getting the purchaser of this beast, Progress Energy, to sign on with the manufacturer/distributor took time, time to nurture an understanding and build a business relationship. According to its Web site, Progress Energy is headquartered in Raleigh, NC, and is a Fortune 250 diversified energy company with more than 24,000 MW of generation capacity and $9 billion in annual revenue. Progress Energy’s holdings include two electric utilities serving more than 2.8 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. The company also is involved in nonregulated operations covering merchant generation, energy marketing, natural-gas exploration, fuel extraction, rail services, and broadband capacity.

According to Danny Smith, generator sales engineer for Greensboro, NC – based Covington Detroit Diesel-Allison (DDA), his firm has had a long-term relationship with Progress Energy. The relationship began in the late 1970s when Covington DDA supplied a 16V149 1,050-kW genset for life safety in Progress Energy’s existing corporate headquarters. This life-safety system is still operational.

Covington DDA is the local authorized Detroit Diesel distributor that handles North Carolina, Tennessee, and a small portion of upper Georgia. According to Detroit Diesel’s Web site, every DDC/MTU power-generation generating system is computer designed to ensure compatibility and consistency before the manufacturing process begins. Detroit Diesel’s generator designs are put through demanding prototype tests, including generator-overload tests, one-step full-load and transient tests, motor starting tests for system capabilities and a three-phase symmetrical short-circuit test, as well as a generator cooling and air-flow test.

“Since the 1970s, Covington DDA has added a 2,000-kilowatt [system (16V4000 DDC/MTU)], which picks up the entire building,” Danny Smith says. “As a result of the reliability of the existing equipment and the services provided by Covington DDA to Progress Energy for their existing corporate facility, at the time Progress Energy decided to expand to what is now known as the Raleigh Downtown Development Project, Covington DDA was again notified, this time by Franz Lang at Progress Energy.”

According to Lang, facilities property engineer at Progress Energy, he will be the person taking over the building and managing the generators. Lang is no stranger to this type of work. Prior to joining Progress four years ago, he was a facility engineer at the world headquarters of GP Morgan Bank in New York City, a 1.6 million – ft.2 building.

“A big factor in our decision with this engine was the emissions and the latest technology to achieve that,” Lang says. “Since we were already using some of their engines in our other building and are very pleased with them – we have a 200-kilowatt [system] across the street that went on-line last year – we decided to go with DDA. We did an analysis on the three major manufacturers, and they won the evaluation because of their emissions, their horsepower, their weight ration, and their fuel consumption.”

The Raleigh Downtown Development Project

According to Frank Smith, system manager at Progress Energy, his company is building a new 19-story building in downtown Raleigh next to the existing corporate headquarters building. “The new building will house corporate personnel who are currently in remote facilities around Raleigh,” Frank Smith says. “Consolidation of corporate personnel into two buildings will reduce overall rental costs and allow ease of collaboration between departments.”

Frank Smith says the new 2,800-kW standby diesel generator is being installed to provide backup power for all departments in the new building. During storms, such departments as Distribution Engineering & Operations and Transmission will be able to operate their storm centers without concern of losing power. In addition, business-critical groups will be able to ensure that daily operations continue no matter what the weather dictates.

Getting Started

The idea for the new building took shape under the direction of Bill Cavanaugh, Progress Energy’s former chief executive officer, as an effort to spur development into downtown Raleigh while also improving synergies for Progress Energy. The use of a standby generator to back up the entire building parallels the philosophy of the existing headquarters, which utilizes a 2,000-kW standby generator.

From the onset of this project, Covington has worked hand-in-hand with Paul Carlson, an electrical design engineer at Atlanta, GA – based B&A Consulting Engineers in supplying information necessary for both life safety and tenant generator sets.

According to Danny Smith, Progress hired its own consultants and then brought in Covington DDA. “Covington was asked to come in because we had been doing excellent service for them,” he notes. “They knew us, they liked our services, and they called us in, and between myself and the consultants, we did a turnkey job to back up the remaining portion of their existing corporate facility. So when the new project came up, the Downtown Development Project, they said, ‘Let’s talk about this job and what we could do to work with electrical design engineer Paul Carlson out of Atlanta so Progress can get our product into a new building.'”

At that point, Covington DDA came in and talked about Progress Energy’s requirements and, most importantly, the generators needed to serve the loads. “We determined that we needed one generator for life safety and then, with Progress Energy being in the building and other tenants occupying the building, they decided they wanted to back up the remaining portion of the building, and that’s when the 2800 came into play,” Danny Smith says.

He adds that Progress needed the largest unit available to back up the entire building. The testing proved to be exciting for all involved. “The testing at the factory – where you put a load bank on this engine, a dummy load, and you drop this load on this engine all at one time, you really wouldn’t think an engine this large would be able to accept the full nameplate value as it did. The nameplate value is 2,800 kilowatts. It took the entire 2,800 kilowatts in one step. A lot of large engines will not accept their nameplate value in one step.”

Two Phases: Life Safety, Tenant Generator Sets

The project encompassed two phases: life safety and tenant generator sets upfit. When those involved began the project – known as the Detroit Diesel/MTU 2800 DSE – they knew it would produce a lot of power, but they did not know exactly how much power.

The first phase of the project, life safety, was provided by Covington DDA to the system’s electrical contractor, Bryant-Durham Electric, for their installation. The life safety engine generator set is a 750-kW GenSet driven by a Detroit Diesel/MTU 12V2000 turbocharged, intercooled diesel engine.

The second phase of the project, tenant upfit, began with the installation of the world’s first, largest, and most-powerful engine generator set ever produced at 1,800 rpm. It is known as the Detroit Diesel/MTU 2800 DSE. The Detroit Diesel/MTU 2,800-kW diesel engine generator set is powered by a DDC/MTU 20V4000 diesel engine with a unit-mounted radiator. The 20V4000 is a single-block, twin-turbo design and operates at 1,800 rpm.

“This engine has the capability of producing up to 4,036 horsepower with a displacement of 5,480 cubic inches and a weight-to-power ratio of 5.2 pounds per horsepower,” Danny Smith explains. “At the time we entered into this project and decided to go with a 2,800-kilowatt unit, we knew it would produce a lot of power; what we did not know was exactly how much power. When the engine generator set underwent its factory test, we found that the unit exceeded our expectations.”

A Real “Beast”

A real “beast” in all aspects of the unit description, the unit block loaded in a single step the entire 2,800 kW. As previously mentioned, this unit weighs 55,000 lb. and is just less than 25 ft. long. Covington DDA also supplied additional items to complete the system, including an ASCO Bulletin 950 Synchropower Generator Control Switch Gear, capable of synchronizing and paralleling to either of two utility sources in a soft load closed transition mode; a Pryco Day Tank; and a stainless steel exhaust silencer and complete sound attenuation of the room and exhaust air discharge. The sound attenuation was supplied to Covington by Minneapolis, MN – based Engineered Aeroacoustics Inc.

Danny Smith says there are 60 engines like this operational throughout the world, but this one is the first of its kind to be installed in the United States. “This engine has not been around that long,” he says. “We introduced this engine last year. This is a world engine, and it was introduced at 1,500 revolutions per minute, which is 50 hertz in other countries. This is the first one that has been developed at 1,800 revolutions per minute, which is required to produce 60 hertz. When I say it’s the best-engineered 1,800-revolutions-per-minute single-engine design in the world, I’m talking from the electrical consultant’s point of view.”

From the electrical consultant’s point of view, this is what one sees: a state-of-the-art fuel system and an all-sound-attenuated installation room. “It’s a Cadillac project,” Danny Smith continues. “The generator is installed inside of the high-rise building. It’s not outside in an enclosure, which many times they are. Many times when these things are put inside, they just duct them through some louvers to the exterior. There’s been a lot more engineering that has gone into this due to the size of the engine. A 20-cylinder engine isn’t a real quiet thing, so we had to go in and sound attenuate the entire room. The air discharge has sound baffling in it. We have sound requirements that we have to meet in the downtown area at the property line. This wasn’t something just thrown together. There was a lot of thought put into it. We’ve been working on this project for close to a year. In July [2004], it will be fully operational.”

Let’s get one thing clear: These two generators going into the Raleigh Downtown Development Project will only serve this building. This is Progress Energy’s backup power source. This is not what operates the building. When the company’s power goes down, these engines will start up and keep the building operational. Most experts would agree that it’s very crucial for a power company to keep its building lit up.

The Devil Is in the Details

Danny Smith describes the system in detail. First, there’s the 750 kW at 277/480-V three phase, along with four automatic transfer switches for the life safety portion of the project. It also includes fuel tanks and a remote enunciator for remote monitoring. The 2800 consists of the 2,800-kW machine, which is called tenant upfit, and a remote underground fuel tank for the diesel fuel, ASCO automatic switches, and a paralleling switchboard capable of paralleling the 2,800-kW generator to either of two normal utility feeds.

“Progress has two utility feeds coming into the building,” Danny Smith says. “If they lose one feed, they’ll be fed from the other feed. If they lose both, then the generator will start up and open the utility breakers and put the building on generator. Basically this building has three sources of power.”

There’s also a huge stainless steel silencer that goes with this system. The entire package is capable of remote communication where Progress can retrieve information from the equipment to another location in a security room through MOTBUS, which is the protocol.

“When they monitor it, they can monitor everything that’s going on with it, including amps, volts, frequency, power factor, kilowatts, engine temperature, oil pressure, and water temperature,” Danny Smith notes.

Remote communication is done through Detroit Diesel’s digital 550 controller that is mounted on the generator with an RS port to tie into and retrieve data.

“We’re introducing the 2800 into the United States,” Danny Smith concludes. “And we’d like to install some more of these beasts out there. Anything that can block load at the factory under its testing, 2,800 kilowatts in one step, that’s strong. Anybody that has the requirement for this kind of kilowatt load would be a candidate for such a system: hospitals; large developments, such as this one in Raleigh; high-rise buildings; wastewater treatment [facilities]; raw-water treatment [facilities]; utility companies. Some of the smaller utility companies buy power from other utility companies, and they like to produce some of their own power, so we could do load management for them.”

Asked what lessons he learned or challenges he faced, Danny Smith replies that it went as they expected with no shortfalls. “It’s big; there’s a lot of power here that you just don’t stick in after the fact. Everything has to be designed in on the front end. This is the main lesson. There are facilities out there that can incorporate this kind of thing, but it’s much easier to do it on the front end during the design stages. I don’t want people to think they can’t buy one and put it in their existing facility because they can.”


Danny Smith also cites the emissions. Because of Covington DDA’s common-rail fuel system with Mdec, the firm feels it is the leader in low-emissions standards. Progress Energy as a whole owns other power companies throughout the country, and because they’re looked at as a whole as far as emissions expelled into the atmosphere, emissions are a concern for the company. Anywhere Progress Energy can keep its emissions to a tighter standard, that’s definitely an issue.

“We do this better than other systems,” Danny Smith says. “With our common-rail fuel system and the Mdec electronic controls of our fuel system, we can control our emissions to a much better level than our competition. They meet or exceed any EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] environmental standards required for emissions.”

Lang says emissions meet or exceed EPA guidelines. “We are looking at this companywide because we’re an energy company. Anytime we can lower emissions anywhere, even from the generators, it can be placed with the bigger numbers to bring the total aggregate number down.”

Other Options Considered, Factors Guiding Decisions

According to Frank Smith, a smaller generator was considered that would back up approximately 60% of the building, but per management discretion the larger unit was selected. What factors guided the decision? “We wanted to maintain the same philosophy as the existing building,” Frank Smith explains. “That philosophy is 100% backup, increased flexibility on where critical departments could be located, and a simplified electrical system with total backup instead of partial. In terms of the economics, we wanted an incrementally low cost to upgrade to the larger generator.”

Lessons Learned, Challenges, Superiorities, Shortfalls

The building was topped out in mid-February 2004 and is on schedule to have the first department moved in during the third quarter of the year.

The generator was purchased in December 2003 and is on-site but has not yet been installed.

Lang says the project is scheduled for shell completion with systems up and running by the end of June. “We are on the roof level right now, and the cooling towers are being installed, and the first group will move in by the end of August.”

According to Frank Smith, a “no-project” situation did not exist because certain business-critical departments require standby operation to provide optimal service to customers. “The decision was whether to provide a smaller generator to provide backup only where needed or buy a larger generator to provide 100% backup,” he adds. “When costs were compared between the two scenarios, we determined we could get 100% backup for approximately 20% additional cost. Management determined the flexibility of having the larger unit to be worth the 20% premium.”

Progress Energy did not want to sole-source the equipment, but Covington was the only vendor to make a 2,800-kW unit. “We bid the equipment competitively with other vendors providing dual units, two 1,500-kilowatt units, for example,” Frank Smith notes. “With engineering and physical-space considerations, the 2,800-kilowatt unit was definitely preferred and also turned out to be the lowest cost proposal.”

Reliability and digital controls were also important factors. “They use electronic controls on most of the mechanical governors to meet emissions, fuel consumption, and response in picking up the loads and carrying the loads. This is done to where we are completely satisfied with it.”

Lang says the main challenges were to place this generator in an existing footprint in an existing parking garage in which this facility is going to have a shared loading dock. “One was to shoehorn it into an outside access and develop in the room and the other for sound attenuation,” he notes. “The fuel tanks are based in the service drive of the loading dock, and we got that worked. In terms of the sound attenuation, the room is made out of masonry walls, so this is a problem because it is all custom built and you have to meet design criteria. Until we know the exact airflows and air requirements and decibel levels, as in background and the size of the louvers, that’s all being finalized. We know we can achieve it; it’s just getting the finalization of the design down. That portion will be done by June. If it weren’t for this generator, we would have had to have gone to two generators. And we don’t have the footprint for it.”

Lang says he looked at not only reliability of the equipment involved but also the quality of product delivery and the quality of service and customer support. “Not only did we factor in price. We looked at long-term costs, what it takes to run these units, what it takes as ownership having a partnership with a service provider. Depending on the size of the generator, these generators can cost from $2,000 to $3,000 a year or more for service costs alone. To run them when you look at fuel consumption, they cost about $2 thousand a year depending on the size again. The purchase cost was good, but the exact numbers are proprietary.”

Lang says Progress Energy is committed to downtown Raleigh and building a strong economic base. He says Progress Energy believes in partnering with good contractors, and Covington DDA is one of them. “We feel in our group that Detroit Diesel does meet our needs in technical support and information. Some of their people came down from Detroit for review meetings with engineers, architects, and various vendors to get this thing finalized. They made the extra effort to come down and meet with us and supplied us with the information, whatever was needed. That goes a long way in our organization also. Price is one thing, but you have to look at long-term and relationship costs. Having a relationship with someone cannot be placed in dollars. For example, the service technicians come out in the middle of an ice storm or a hurricane, be on-site in their various areas, and know where to go when something happens. The last hurricane we had down here was Isabel. Covington does maintain our generators in both North and South Carolina. During Isabel, we did not have one generator that did not start or fire up when needed. We’ve never had this before.”

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