NEW ULM - A loud whooshing sound rumbled through downtown on Monday, followed by billowing clouds of steam dissipating into the sky.
The noise and the steam came from the Public Utility building at 310 1st North St., and the procedure was the last step in a three-year plan to install a new back-pressure steam turbine.
In preparation for the new turbine system NUPU conducted steam flushing to clear the lines. Utilities Director Patrick Wrase explained that flushing the lines was necessary to remove any contaminants in them. Due to the extreme pressure produced in steam lines, any debris left inside could potentially damage the new equipment. Wrase said that even small particles could reduce the turbine to "Swiss cheese."
Staff photos by Clay Schuldt
(Above) An employee of New Ulm Public Utilities watches steam billow from the building Monday afternoon. The steam was produced during a procedure to flush the steam lines before a new back-pressure team turbine goes online.
A New Ulm Public Utilities worker stands near the new back-pressure steam turbine that will go into operation later this month. The new turbine will increase efficiency at the power plant.
NUPU conducted eight steam blasts on Monday. Each blast lasted just under 15 minutes. As a precaution a section of 1st North Street directly in front of the Public Utilities building was closed during the procedures.
The noise caused by the blasts hit as high as 130 decibels and shot debris across the roadway, according to Chief Engineer Gary Domeier
After the steam lines have been cleared. the turbine will be hooked into the City's steam system. The new turbine will allow NUPU to utilize more of the steam generated and increase electrical efficiency and significantly cut New Ulm's energy bill. The turbine is expected to be operation by the end of the month.
Last year, the New Ulm Public Utilities Commission awarded a $946,880 bid from Brennan Construction for the back pressure steam turbine project for the power plant.