Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan: Ethernet Backboned Switchgear at its Finest!

In 2011, LEC president Randy Leman went to KAF (the Kandahar Airfield) for one month with fellow engineers Greg and Oscar. The US was in the middle of the war on terror in the middle east.  Kandahar Air Field is an old Soviet air base that was taken over by the US after Russia’s exit from Afghanistan.  It is then utilized as a UN air base with all kinds of countries and nationalities represented there.

Our mission: deploy a 40MW diesel power plant, utilizing 30 different mobile power modules.

But, before they can begin, there are a few issues. The engineers were informed that KAF is ready to begin commissioning; however, there is an AHJ on base that says the 480:13.8kV transformers set at every generator must be installed onto a concrete foundation with bottom stub-ups rather than set on timbers as they were when I arrived.  That set things back by 2 weeks. 

Now it is time to commission the power modules at the site. These 30 power modules utilize my ethernet backboned switchgear design I had been working on for 10 years.  This is the chance to kick the tires and see how this concept is going to perform.  How do we control these generators?  By running a single fiber optic pair from a central control room to each generator.  That is it.  How does it work?  Fantastic!  We had an individual web server per generator that allowed comprehensive control and monitoring of each generator from the control room.  Then, there was a separate master control HMI and PLC executing load sense demand control.  The system was super-fast!  No lag in reading data and executing commands.

Problems with the system?  Rats liked chewing through the fiber optic pairs.  We learned to make those fiber runs more robust and protected.  Otherwise, I am still a huge fan of all things ethernet.  Obviously, the bandwidth is fantastic; but also, the nature of peer-to-peer communications (as opposed to master/slave) is not to be underestimated.  Immensely powerful!