Operational Ergonomics Key to Dominion Energy Control Room Upgrade

Dominion Energy, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is among the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy. To help power its communities, Dominion Energy employs 16,200 people to operate its massive electric and gas generation system.

1. The Bear Garden Power Station in Virginia is a 590-MW natural gas-fired facility that began commercial operation in May 2011. The plant has a two-on-one configuration, with two combustion turbines generating electricity. Exhaust heat from the turbines produces steam, which is used to generate more electricity. Fluor provided engineering, procurement, construction, and commissioning services for the plant. Courtesy: Fluor

Dominion’s Bear Garden Power Station (Figure 1), a 590-MW natural gas-fired facility located in Buckingham County, Virginia, is responsible for powering 146,000 homes in the area. The station’s control room is staffed by a team of operators who work 12-hour shifts to ensure the station runs safely and effectively.

These strenuous shifts hinge on a sharp attention to detail. As such, the control room at the station needs to reflect an environment where employees can safely and comfortably perform their duties.

“I had been pushing for a control room console upgrade for a while,” said Jay Postak, a former engineer at the Bear Garden Generating Station. “Our primary objective was to provide a healthier environment for our operators.”

A Familiar Partner

When searching for a company to help create a more ergonomic environment for the Bear Garden operators, Postak didn’t have to look far. His manager, having recently upgraded Dominion’s Clover Power Station, an 865-MW coal-fired plant in Clover, Virginia, recommended Winsted. The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company is a global leader in command and control room consoles, desks, and furniture for 24/7 mission-critical applications. Winsted is known for its range of ergonomic sit/stand continuous use technical desks and furniture to reduce fatigue and promote productivity, while meeting International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ergonomic guidelines.

Postak took a look at Winsted and hit the ground running with the company’s Wels software, which allows users to digitally design 3D control rooms with Winsted consoles and furniture. With the software, he could begin to lay out the custom console setup his operators needed.

“It proved useful, helping me get better use of the area we had,” said Postak. “With the room’s dimensions, we were able to re-adjust the console and present multiple options to the operators for their feedback.”

2. The upgraded control room at the Bear Garden Power Station in Virginia features 24 display monitors. The layout was configured using Winsted’s Wels software, which allows users to digitally design 3D control rooms, allowing for a customized setup. Courtesy: Winsted

Once the design was finalized, Postak engaged Winsted to find the right products for the layout. To give the operator a full view of the two windows in the control room, a large L-shaped desk was placed in the center of the room. This allows for easy access to the front and back of the console, including the cables for the 24 displays (Figure 2).

The entire L-shaped design was configured to allow operators to sit or stand as well. Driven by six servo motors, the entire work surface can be raised to a height of 43 inches. A supervisor station oversees the activity of the main desk, and an engineer’s work station was placed at the far end of the room to allow operators and engineers to work in close proximity with each other.

Postak referenced features of the Clover Power Station when deciding on the configuration of the console, mainly highlighting ergonomics and comfort. “My main priority was making the work surface comfortable for the operators,” he said. “I learned the Clover station had inset monitors, which is more practical for long-time viewing.”

Ideal Installation

Success hinged on smooth installation, and this particular project provided its own set of challenges. The amount of equipment being installed, and the large L-shaped console, required a hands-on approach.

Winsted staff arrived onsite for the install. The L-shaped console was delivered in three sections. To secure everything in place, Winsted super-glued blocks onto the sections, and also placed glue in the cracks between the sections. A next step was using C-clamps to anchor everything together. Once the glue dried, the installation team returned to remove the blocks and buffed the entire surface, resulting in one continuous surface.

“I was wondering what it was going to look like when it was done,” said Postak. “In the end, you couldn’t tell. There were no seams.”

To ensure that Bear Garden’s budgetary requirements were met, Winsted worked to fulfill the product order, and the installation was completed in a couple months. “I didn’t sign off on the final design drawings until the middle of November,” said Postak. “They started construction and everything was onsite by the end of December.”

During the process, Winsted and Postak were able to quickly navigate an issue regarding the desk height, leading to no loss in construction time. This was primarily due to the use of the 3D computer-aided design image of the console that was produced by the Winsted designer.

Success at Bear Garden

With the new ergonomically designed console at Bear Garden, the operators have a work area that fits their 12-hour work schedule. Despite the large scale of the project and installation, creating this ergonomic environment was a smooth undertaking.

“It was really remarkable,” said Postak. “Winsted was very accommodating, and we have a great control room as a result.” ■

Randy Smith is president and general manager of Winsted, a provider of command and control room consoles, desks, and furniture for 24/7 mission-critical applications. 

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