In-Field Challenges Can’t Stop ORCA Installation

In-Field Challenges Can’t Stop ORCA Installation

Michelle Wilber should be known by an alias — Ethan Hunt, the character from “Mission: Impossible” movies. The ACEP research engineer is amazing at troubleshooting and fixing parts in the field, under pressure, within minutes of catching a flight. Hunt, er, Wilber, didn’t disappoint when she traveled to Galena last month to install an ORCA device at the City of Galena powerhouse.

ORCA, or Onsite Realtime Collection and Acquisition, is a plug and play device that allows easy collection of powerhouse load data. Having this data allows for planning and integration of renewables, batteries and other upgrades to community power systems.

The ORCA is still under development and, as expected, there were challenges to troubleshoot in the existing powerhouse, including figuring out where to plug in the power and communications of the device. Luckily, ACEP’s Rob Bensin was traveling out to Galena the morning Wilber was scheduled to depart and was able to come to the rescue with some unanticipated, but much needed, parts.

In keeping with the “Mission: Impossible” time pressure of previous installations, a snapped power plug was soldered and tiny wires reconnected mere minutes before heading to the airport for the return flight.

Ultimately, the installation was a success, and the team learned a lot about how to integrate the ORCA in existing powerhouses. The previous installations were done in new powerhouses. Wilber sends her heartfelt thanks to Shanda Huntington, Galena’s city manager, for making this installation possible.


Michelle Wilber installs an ORCA device in the City of Galena powerhouse. Photo by Amanda Byrd.