Out With the Old, In With the New

Waste-to-energy power plant manages operations with new advanced video system

AS necessary as they may be in developed areas, waste management facilities are often viewed as having few, if any, redeeming qualities. They consume acres of American soil that could otherwise be used for housing, educational facilities or park land. American Ref-Fuel Co., in Westbury, N.Y., is taking a more practical approach to waste management, turning trash into electricity.

Generating electricity from garbage is an inglorious and cumbersome task. As one of the nation's leading waste-to-energy power providers, American Ref-Fuel converts nearly 1 million tons of solid waste into fuel for its Westbury facility's 72-megawatt turbine generator. In addition to providing an efficient source of energy for 65,000 homes, the process provides a safe, practical and efficient waste management solution.

Steve Bossotti, plant manager at American Ref-Fuel's Westbury plant, realized that a new video surveillance system would help to improve plant operations by facilitating the smooth flow of materials. The initial video system installed in 1989 simply did not offer the performance, versatility and feature capabilities that Bossotti envisioned. He assigned maintenance manager Ken Hinsch and electrical/instrumentation and controls supervisor Anthony Notaro the task of scoping out the specific camera needs the plant would require.

Notaro then spoke with senior E/I&C technician Jorge Hernandez -- who was responsible for the plant's original CCTV installation -- to begin investigating possible vendors to put together a new system. After visiting Panasonic Security Systems' Web site, Hernandez realized the company offered the technology the plant required. With a Panasonic national certified dealer located virtually in his backyard -- Intelli-Tec Security Services, of Westbury, N.Y. -- Hernandez knew he could get increased functionality from a new system coupled with local support to implement all of the system's capabilities and performance.

To achieve high video quality in the dimly lit environment, Marty McMillan selected Panasonic cameras and auto-iris vari-focal lenses, which were placed in a dry-nitrogen pressurized camera enclosure to protect them from dust and other caustic elements.

Hernandez and Notaro met with Marty L. McMillan, president of Intelli-Tec and a seasoned video surveillance specialist with more than 28 years of experience, who quickly offered several solutions to meet their requirements. During the initial site tour, Marty McMillan summarized that his installation team had several installation issues to address as a result of the hostile environment in which the system was to be deployed.

Marty McMillan recognized that the restrictive conditions would increase the installation time required, yet Intelli-Tec had to minimize downtime at the plant during the complex installation process. The installation schedule was critical to the success of the project and was placed in the hands of Hernandez and the company's vice president of operations, Matt McMillan.

Matt McMillan's expertise in handling special video surveillance installations was to be put to the test. To help streamline and expedite the installation process, Hernandez and Notaro provided Matt McMillan with OSHA's safety guidelines and American Ref-Fuel's plant procedures. While the equipment was on order, Matt McMillan had his installation team complete the certified safety training classes. This allowed Intelli-Tec to meet American Ref-Fuel's immediate installation schedule.

At the inception of the design phase, Hernandez and Notaro emphasized that control room operators needed the ability to monitor each key area of the plant.

"It is critical that our operators can see if there are any disruptions in the process, starting with our east and west crane operations, which begin the process," Hernandez said.

Two Gantry-style cranes with claw-type grapples load tons of garbage into one of three hoppers, which feed massive burners to heat the system's boilers and drive the steam-driven turbine. The garbage dropped into each hopper is moved across burners at a controlled rate on six separate metal roller grates. The resultant ash and residue exits on the opposite side and is dropped into a conveyor belt system. It passes through vibration machines where the residue and ash is sorted by size. The cameras used to monitor the three hoppers allow crane operators to spot large metal objects, which must be quickly removed from the process to avoid jams.

The problematic old video system that was used to monitor these areas consisted of three monochrome tube cameras in standard interior housings that were connected with a sequential switcher. A 9-inch black-and-white monitor was installed in each of the cranes' cabs for the operators to view. The arrangement required crane operators to take their eyes off the crane grapples so they could view the small screens while manually switching cameras to the appropriate hopper.

Marty McMillan solved this problem by designing a hands-free system with a display that showed all three cameras on a single large screen. He specified a 20-inch LCD flat-screen monitor with a quad view of the three hopper cameras. With the fourth video channel open, he added an additional camera view from the tipping bay area, where the refuse is dumped by the garbage trucks and is loaded into the refuse pit to be picked up by the two cranes. This would provide crane operators a clear view of all the hoppers instantaneously.

To achieve high video quality in the dimly lit environment, Marty McMillan selected Panasonic cameras and auto-iris vari-focal lenses, which were placed in a dry-nitrogen pressurized camera enclosure to protect them from dust and other caustic elements.

The installation of the cameras and sealed enclosures required special PVC-coated galvanized steel conduits and fittings to protect the video cable from debris and caustics.

"Once we got the new cameras running, the operators and management could not believe the high-resolution color video they were watching," Marty McMillan said.

American Ref-Fuel also had several old PTZ cameras installed around the perimeter of the plant that had been rendered virtually useless after years of neglect. The old units were removed and replaced with new Panasonic dome camera systems mounted on the rooftop in parapet mounts so the units could be easily serviced and cleaned when necessary.

The cameras are controlled using a combination of three networked matrix switchers, a controller and three color quad multiplexers. A Panasonic DVR handles the high-resolution recording of the 16 most critical areas. All of the systems' components are linked to capitalize on the integration capabilities afforded by each of the units in the system.

The system is controlled via a joystick controller, and the matrix switchers are configured with one master and two slave units to accommodate the multiplexed monitoring assignments for the crane cabs and the centralized control room operator's station. All 16 cameras are simultaneously displayed on a 42-inch plasma display in the facility's control room.

The network allows the plant manager to monitor virtually the entire operation from his office. Site managers from other American Ref-Fuel facilities with access to the company's network also can monitor activity at the Westbury facility. The installation team completed its work in just four weeks.

"This was not an easy installation, given the restrictive working conditions we have at the plant," Bossotti said. "The Westbury facility is now the showcase for American Ref-Fuel, and we look forward to Intelli-Tec and Panasonic completing similar installations at other plants across our company."

This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Security Products, pg. 30.


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