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Overview

PPL, formerly known as Pennsylvania Power and Light, is an energy utilities company headquartered in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It currently serves nearly 1.4 million customers in 29 different counties and maintains more than 48 thousand miles of power lines in central and eastern Pennsylvania.

The majority of PPL's power plants burn oil or natural gas, however, some of their facilities are used for coal-fired electrical generation. One of those facilities is located in York, Pennsylvania and occupies a large portion of an island on the Susquehanna River.

The Brunner Island Steam Electric Station has three major units, with generating capacities of 334 MW, 390 MW, and 705 MW . In 2005, the plant manager announced that the Brunner Island facility would begin installing scrubbers at the plant to remove thousands of tons of sulfur from the environment. The scrubbers were installed in 2009, along with brand new cooling towers. Now, Brunner Island discharges all of its waste heat into the brand new cooling towers.

The cooling towers dramatically improve environmental output of pollutants and are an effective way of discharging waste quickly and easily. But, since they’re located on the roof of the Brunner plant, workers needed an efficient method for replacing parts and performing routine maintenance.

In the past, plant managers would rent a boom crane to reach the pipes on top of the building and perform maintenance. But, as maintenance needs and costs began to slowly increase, the team realized they need to find a more reliable, cost-effective solution that would allow workers to maintain the cooling towers and scrubbers as needed. That’s when they reached out to a Spanco third party distributor to assess their needs and evaluate a potential solution.

 

Solution

The local Spanco distributor recommended a custom freestanding jib crane for the roof of their building to eliminate the need for costly rentals, which were cumbersome, difficult to schedule, and very expensive. The Spanco Freestanding Jib Crane was baseplate-mounted on the roof for full 360-degree motorized rotation and had a total lifting capacity of 4,000 pounds.

The entire system spans 53 feet, with a height of 20 feet under the boom and a 36 inch diameter mast. Spanco had to design a 2-foot standard beam and reinforced truss, bringing the overall boom height to a staggering 7 feet. The reinforced truss ensures that the jib can lift up to 4,000 pounds and reach up to 53 feet without tipping over. In the end, the jib crane was designed with an overturning moment of 8,600,000 inch-pounds, and weighed in at 22,800 pounds.

Aside from the jib’s custom design specifications, it also needed to be fully weatherized for outdoor use. The control panel and limit switch came with a fully-weatherized assembly, and the bottom entry collectors were also weatherized to prevent corrosion and wind damage. A box track kit ensured power and control to the hoist, and included a rain guard for extra protection from the elements.

The entire system was primed and finished with double-coated epoxy to ensure system components would last for many years to come—through rain, snow, and sun. Even the gussets at the bottom of the mast’s base plate were continuously welded to prevent dirt and dust from accumulating in the steel, which can occur with tac-welded systems. In order to install the massive system, PPL rented a large helicopter to lift it to the roof and hold it in place while multiple engineers and (qualified) workers mounted the basebplate and carefully anchored it to the foundation. 

Impact

Now, workers can climb to the roof and perform routine maintenance on the scrubbers and cooling towers whenever needed. Often times, the jib is used to reach into equipment and remove pipes when expansion joints need to be fixed or when an entire pipe swells and needs to be fully replaced. They also use the crane to reach into their base fuel structure and change filters in the coal plant.

Plant managers are thrilled with the system because they no longer have to schedule and rent a boom crane each time a part needs to be maintained, fixed, or replaced on the roof. The fully weatherized jib crane has maintained its integrity over the course of the past six years, and workers are happy with the crane’s fully-automated system and motorized rotation, which makes it easy to use, quick and effective. According to their local distributor, “The initial investment for such a large, custom designed crane was nothing compared to the ongoing investment the company had to make each time they rented a crane.” The Spanco Freestanding Jib Crane has been a cost-effective, ergonomic solution that—with proper maintenance—will last many years to come.