By: Maria E. Luna Issue: Rebuilding Our Infrastructure Section: Business
Chattanooga Alstom is a gleaming example of how smart investments in the right infrastructure are a foundation in manufacturing which will change the ability in the United States to compete in global markets. The facility provides energy components to power plants, which in turn, fuels infrastructure. This niche as important, as it is also said by President and CEO of Alstom in the U.S. and Canada, Pierre Gauthier, to be “a perfect example of how the right infrastructure investments attract businesses that cascade benefits throughout the local and national economies.” Infrastructure investments need modernization through collaborations between people, technology, and control/support systems.
Alstom developed the Chattanooga facility to be the center for excellence for power generation technologies in North America. The world’s largest turbines are engineered and manufactured in Chattanooga, Tennessee by Alstom. Alstom invested $300 million in the facility. Being the biggest is in this facility’s culture since it is also the largest rotor over speed balancing facility in the world. Turbines are used in power generation for fossil steam, nuclear and gas power plants. Not only is there manufacturing and rotor balancing, but the facility is state-of-the-art and is committed to using clean energy, and as such, has LEED Gold certification . The facility also retrofits projects so the range of services for customers is extensive. Alstom is not only in Chattanooga, but it is in 26 different locations employing 8,500 people in North America. Specifically, this facility alone created 350 new jobs.
The balancing facility assures that rotors experience no vibration during normal operation. Alstom Chattanooga is capable of balancing rotors that weigh up to 350 metric tons, are 22 meters long, have a diameter up to eight meters and have a maximum speed of 4,500 rpm. For visualization, the average car could fit into a balancing chamber. The size is of importance to the nuclear energy industry as it can retrofit existing parts to make them more efficient and build equipment for the next generation of power plants. Services for major power plant components are rotor and casing for steam turbine assembly, rotor and final assembly for gas turbines, production of turbo-generators, and production of moisture separator re-heaters and other heat exchangers.
Chattanooga is in the heart of the industry. The location is of significance due to the comprehensive roads, rails giving access to heavy freight, and waterways available to the city of Chattanooga. Therefore the strategic location means rapid fulfillment and simplified transportation logistics for customers. Alstom Chattanooga’s barge dock on the banks of the Tennessee River is equipped with a 1,000 ton lifting crane, which is a well thought out endeavor since 80 percent of North America’s power plants, existing and planned, are accessible from the Tennessee River.
LEED is a rating system that guides construction in producing high performance buildings that are not only better for the environment but for the people who work there, and in comparison to other buildings are more profitable. LEED Gold certification requires high standards in six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation in design, and lastly, regional priority. The scale is based on 100 points. LEED Gold ranges 60-79 points. This is a benchmark of excellence for a manufacturing facility. The Chattanooga facility specifically has done the following to reach Gold certification:
• More than 3,400 tons of steel (226 truckloads) were recycled during construction of the plant. • Concrete debris from the construction was used for road construction • One pre-engineered building was given to a local high school for use as a sports training facility, and another is being use by an alternative energy company. • Air conditioning units have been donated to the city of Chattanooga. • Glass doors and storm doors, windows and light fixtures have been given to Habitat for Humanity for use in local housing projects.
• Efficiency upgrades lowered energy consumption by 35 percent. • Skylights provide lighting to 75 percent of the occupied space. • Heat generated from manufacturing will supplement the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. • Captured rainwater will irrigate the terrain. • Fifty percent of the property, excluding the building, was landscaped to minimize storm water run-off. • The site promotes low-emission transportation with bicycle racks, preferential parking for low emission vehicles and public transportation access.
Through collaboration between Deborah Wince-Smith, president and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness, and Alstom, discussions have started to identify specific recommendations for infrastructure investment policies. These recommendations will be available through the National Manufacturing Strategy and presented during the National Manufacturing Summit in Washington, D.C. on December 7-8, 2011.