Joe ClappisSenior Controls Engineer Control Systems Division
Immediately after graduating from California Maritime Academy in 1983, I went to work for General Electric® as an Industrial Electrical & Electronics Field Engineer. Two years later I found myself working on a gas turbine exciter and subsequently transferred to the Fossil power group. Two years after that I became a Hot Suitcase gas turbine controls Field Engineer, traveling to sites to help troubleshoot issues that couldn’t be solved with phone support. I have traveled around the world working on GE-design heavy duty gas turbine control systems and teaching/advising on gas turbine operation and control issues.
What do you do here at MD&A and what do you enjoy most?
A lot of people would like to know the answer to that question. I have a great position at MD&A, working with customers to understand their GE-design heavy duty gas turbine control systems and operation, and supporting control retrofit projects and maintenance outage re-starts. Since my first work passion is helping others to learn gas turbine operation and controls, it’s a great opportunity–with plans to expand our learning offerings in the new year.
What is the oldest turbine control and generator excitation system that you have serviced?
I have worked on Fuel Regulator systems (the first GE® gas turbine control system), but my expertise is digital Speedtronic (or Mark*), beginning with Mark IV, through Mark V, Mark VI and Mark VIe. I have commissioned GE Static Source excitation systems (1980s vintage). My second work passion is retrofitting (upgrading) older gas turbine control systems to newer digital systems–we are usually given very little time to complete the entire job (demolition; installation; commissioning) and are assumed to be critical path during the outage. It’s extremely satisfying to finish the retrofit ahead of schedule (usually ahead of the mechanical portion of the outage) under such extreme conditions.
What is the coolest job you’ve worked on?
Every turbine control retrofit I’ve ever worked on has been a challenge and rewarding, if not a great learning experience (and all lessons are not technical!). But the best experiences for me have been teaching turbine control and gas turbine operation and seeing lights go on for people who thought it was all rocket science and black magic.
What’s the biggest mystery about gas turbine controls you would like to de-bunk?
One of the biggest myths I see growing almost every day is that automation can be relied upon to always protect the turbine and generator, and that operator training and unit familiarization are not as necessary as they once were because automation is so advanced. This has led to a false notion that operators can learn everything they need to know from their colleagues–so-called OJT (On-The-Job-Training). Automation in the power generation industry is not as advanced people would like to believe, and it has a long way to go to get to the point that it can replace a human for protection. While OJT is a great teacher, new situations are always occurring at power plants, and even experienced operators haven’t been through every scenario, or can explain things to others so that they can understand.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy traveling, domestically and internationally. My wife and I have just purchased an AirStream trailer to start traveling domestically with our three standard poodles: Goldie, Stanley and Ollie.
Contact Joe today using our Contact form.