White Sands Missile Range will soon be home to 18 Mobile Electrical Equipment Rack power distribution points, thanks to the combined efforts of WSMR systems engineers, TRAX International LLC., the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Impact Electric, Solar Electric and the WSMR Directorate of Public Works. The project was started to create a more reliable form of power required at remote sites throughout the installation to support WSMR test operations.
A prototype was designed, developed and tested, with hopes of installing 30 throughout the range. Based on the success of the program, the initial goal grew to 44 units, which are now complete and will be installed in the near future. The 44 units include 10 trailer-mounted units with generator connection and ultimate mobility, said Shawna Pfeiffer, TRAX mechanical engineer and lead engineer for the project.
“The difference in the power connection availability and safety for the end user is like night and day,” she said. “Every person involved in MEER and the associated power-drop effort is responsible for saving someone’s life.”
The new distribution points MEERs provide are easy to maintain and replace, have individual and main breakers, they are portable and are, most importantly, safe to use. She said some of the older power sites located on the range were outdated, not up to code or infested with rodents. Some of the key benefits of the new distribution points are mobility and ease of use, Pfeiffer said. The end goal for the project was to provide a system that had adequate grounding for each individual location, a safety measure that prevents people from coming in contact with an electrical hazard.
“My role was to design the MEER units to meet WSMR’s expansive power connection needs,” she said.
MEERs utilize standard power connectors that fit the needs of most users, with options to accommodate other unique power connection requirements. Pfeiffer said this will eliminate the need for multiple field modifications that have left the current systems in disarray. She said MEERs and the power drops will be maintained according to a set schedule, following a standard maintenance checklist. The scheduled maintenance will identify and correct problems caused by animal infestations and unauthorized modifications to ensure that the systems continue to provide reliable power at remote sites throughout WSMR.
One of the initial goals for the project was to identify the testing sites and power connections that were most often used and the safety concerns associated with each one of those power drops.
“This project was the catalyst toward identifying the serious safety hazards throughout the range created by dilapidated power equipment,” Pfeiffer said. “MEER units served as a template for which the problems were remedied.”
The three major safety concerns that were found, regarding the existing electrical equipment, included grounding concerns, unauthorized modifications and animal activity. She said the main issues stemmed from organizations not officially owning the equipment on paper and therefore not wanting to spend time and money to fix the equipment. Another issue Pfeiffer found was the type of electrical equipment on the range varied from location to location.
“WSMR is at the cutting edge of military testing operations and a critical component to all testing is the often overlooked power requirements for the test,” she said. “Many take for granted the stable, plug-and-go power that we are all familiar with. However, on WSMR, the power relays that once provided reliable firm power degraded over time based on long-term neglect and disuse.”
She said several customers had resorted to using generator power because the existing power-supply racks could not be used.
Both the USACE and DPW provided firm and updated power drops for the project, MEER connection points and concrete pads for placement of the MEER units.
“The Garrison’s DPW has collaborated on the project to provide reliable, safe power to test sites throughout the range,” said Sam Morris, DPW Engineering Division chief.
Morris said as a result of the effort both Army Test and Evaluation Command and DPW will benefit as a clear line of ownership and responsibility has been established with regard to the power points and creating accountability for test customers. DPW is now responsible for the power up to the first circuit breaker, anything thereafter is the responsibility of the Test Center.
Additionally, Morris said the new configurations will allow the monitoring of energy consumption as meters are being installed to encourage energy conservation and provide WSMR with a method for capturing and recovering energy costs by including those costs into a test customer’s bill. The new configurations also allow more flexibility in power availability to test customers with the MEER mobility.
“This process has been a hugely successful joint effort between government and contractor personnel to identify and rectify a serious safety hazard on WSMR, while providing the best possible support equipment to help complete customer’s missions,” Pfeiffer said. According to Pfeiffer the MEER project only furthers TRAX’s broad range of applications by displaying its ability to support electrical prospects as well.
“MEERs are an example of WSMR’s collective ability to identify problems, especially safety concerns, associated with our work environment and offer solutions to remedy such issues,” she said.
“We hope that this project continues to advance, both in the number of MEERs being used on WSMR, as well as their continued maintenance to ensure they provide firm power to customers for many years to come.”