Did you receive a post card from the IEEE Power & Energy Society recently? I did, and it totally blew my day. I was leafing through the mail when it fell out. It had an enticing beach scene with the message scrawled across it: “Celebrate Fabulous Florida in the Fifties.” I grew up in Florida during the 1950s, so now we are talking déjà vu!
Back in the day, we lived in northern Florida, which was pretty laid back by today's standards. Road trips to visit relatives living in central Florida (Orlando area) were okay, but central Florida was all orange groves, no amusement parks. This was pre-Disney World, and tourists had two choices: all-you-can-drink orange juice stands and (my favorite) roadside snake, alligator and monkey farms.
About the time I started high school, we moved to a tiny coastal town in southern Florida called Hollywood and life got a whole lot more interesting. Beach parties were a way of life set to rock ‘n’ roll.
But getting back to the post card, the flip side was the real reason for the posting. It was a reminder for the 2012 IEEE PES T&D Conference and Exposition happening in Orlando. It's the biggest shindig our industry throws, and it only takes place once every two years. The way technology is evolving, two years is a long time, and I can't wait to see what is changing, improving and being introduced since the last expo.
As a consulting engineer and technical writer for Transmission & Distribution World, I have to stay ahead of the technology curve, which is a challenge in today's fast-paced world. So the IEEE PES T&D Expo is a special time for me as our manufacturers and vendors pull out all the stops, putting on display the latest technology for us to poke, prod and play with.
Play with is the key word here. Where else can an engineer, executive or purchasing agent operate a circuit breaker, open a disconnect switch or punch a button that starts a simulated blackout? Personally, I can't resist a control panel with buttons to press or a keyboard to tap. When I go into an exhibit space, I am looking for that new smart grid gizmo that goes flash-bang.
Well, it helps that I have been the official blogger for the IEEE PES T&D Expo since the Chicago show in 2008. That year, I was serving as the chairman of the PES T&D committee, and the PES officers wanted some new ways to show off our “big event.”
We turned to blogging to give the attendees a totally fresh view of the conference. Not only can we clue attendees to what is new and interesting, but we can share how much fun the folks back in the office are missing.
I love being PES's official blogger and being able to share my experiences with you. Being a utility engineer and an active PES member for my entire career has really helped. You really get to know a great deal of people in our industry when you work in PES subcommittees and working groups. Knowing the players personally makes the blogging real and enhances the fun.
It also helps that the event is so fantastic in itself. This year everything is geared toward “Making Innovation Work for Tomorrow.” It's the focus of the super sessions, panels, education tracks and the exhibit floor. The super sessions explore the aging T&D infrastructure, integrating renewables into the grid and micro-grids.
And if that isn't enough, attendees can go to tutorials about voltage source converters for those interested in HVDC or smart grid 101 for those wanting to get ground in this new technology. And those are only two of the many subjects offered. We expect our technical staff to be able to keep the lights on — no matter what. This is the time to invest in that education, executives.
There is also a social side for attendees and their companions. Yes, you can combine technology and relaxation. There are companion programs concurrent with the technical programs. Come early and tour the Kennedy Space Center, or take a boat trip on the Banana River to get up close and personnel with manatees and dolphins, or perhaps visit Disney World. My lovely wife, Pam, has been accompanying me for years, and she looks forward to meeting old friends and taking advantage of the PES tours.
Industry-wise, this is an exciting time for us to gather, too. The energy industry has been one of the bright spots the past couple of years, what with the increase in building out of our transmission system and the billions of dollars flowing into upgrading our monitoring instrumentation and control.
Technology is one of the enablers to help us meet our customers' expectations without driving costs out of sight. So, to answer the question that started this column, the plural for ya'll is all ya'll. And I want to see all ya'll on the exhibit floor at the IEEE PES T&D Expo. Because all ya'll will get a leg up on understanding the technology, and you can lord it over to the clueless who stayed home.