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A BRIEF HISTORY OF TURBINE-DRIVEN GENERATORS

Clyde V. Maughan
Maughan Generator Consultants
Schenectady, New York 12306 USA
Email: clyde@maughan.com Web: clyde.maughan.com

Abstract generators, there has been convergence on many


issues, but there remain to this day, major and
This paper is based on the authors recollections fundamental differences.
from a 63-year career in turbine-generator
design, manufacturing and service 36 years In writing this brief history the focus has been
with General Electric and 27 years as an on materials and structural configurations, and
independent consultant. Having joined GE in the associated service issues. Little detail is
1950, and having worked closely with the old provided as to why specific materials were
timers of that day, the direct knowledge base selected or why the configurations were needed.
goes back into the teen years of the 1900s a
span of almost a century. No guarantee is In the last 15 years, the writer has attempted to
offered that all the information is exactly pass on the knowledge of his generation of
correct, but the essence should be acceptably generator engineers to the younger generations
close to give a general understanding of the of generator design and service engineers. In
difficult evolution to the present designs of this effort, the writer has written 25 technical
turbine-generators. papers and a 240-page text addressing many of
these service issues. The interested reader can
Because the major OEMs of the day kept pretty find these texts at web site:
close (informal) watch on each other, we were www.generatortechnicalforum.org. On the
pretty well informed on the designs, and discussion topic, Inner Water-Cooled Stator
troubles, of each other. Thus the information on Windings, click on any thread, click on the
non-GE OEMs should be fairly accurate. There Documents tab at the top, and find
has been considerable commonality of materials downloadable 25 papers and a 240-page text on
and designs between OEMs throughout this generator maintenance.
history. An important example: all forgings for
all OEMs come from the same steel mills. But A broader source of information can be found
there have been major and important differences also on this site under: IGTC Resource
in design details. An OEM fortunate enough to Center/IGTC Technical Library/Generator
have a true genius in their engineering Books, Guides, Manuals & Primers.
organization was likely to have solved difficult
problems with an elegant, simple design.
Whereas an OEM with truly excellent engineers ELECTRICAL INSULATION SYSTEMS
(but not genius) may have solved the problem
with a complicated, almost Rube Goldberg, Stator Windings
design. Examples include field ventilation,
stator winding support systems, stator bar Groundwall Insulation
strand transition, compensation for non-
symmetry of 2-pole circumferential mechanical Before the turn into the 20th century, insulating
stiffness, isolation of stator core vibration. Over materials were natural products: shellac, cotton,
time, as OEMs have studied competitor paper. The rudimentary designs were at low
voltage and low temperatures, and apparently
functioned fairly well as long as duties were placing in service, significant migration would
kept sufficiently low. With inevitable trends not occur.
toward higher voltages and higher thermal and
mechanical duties, much better materials were The net result of these 2 changes (lowering of
required. Somewhere around the turn of the asphalt flow point and adding linseed oil) was
century, 1899 to 1900, mica flake was that GE generators over about 40 MW had
discovered to have remarkable electrical and serious tape migration problems if load was
thermal properties. But still with shellac, cotton cycled immediately on being placed in service.
and other relatively primitive materials Otherwise, migration was minor or not at all. Of
incorporated in the systems, troubles continued. the ~400 large asphalt-insulated generators built
By the mid-teen years, 1915, it was discovered by GE, about 1/3rd were rewound, the remainder
that by using a vacuum-pressure cycle, is still in service without migration, or have been
mica/cotton tapes could be impregnated with a retired.
hot asphalt compound to obtain a major
electrical duty improvement. Tape migration was difficult to reproduce under
laboratory conditions because it was dependent
Asphalt/mica systems served the industry well on several variables: load cycling, core length,
for 35 years, although by the late 1920s the tape temperature of the bar copper vs. asphalt
migration phenomenon had surfaced. At General softening point, tightness of the bar in the slot,
Electric, this occurred on 2 very long, very large direction of tape application. The GE laboratory
4-pole generators. The engineers mis-diagnosed efforts were not successful, and GE continued to
the root cause of condition as cracking of the believe the deficiency was a cracking
stator groundwall insulation (girth crack) due to phenomenon (hence the on-going use of the term
too hard a system and lowered the softening girth crack).
point of the asphalt used in the groundwall. This
was exactly the wrong change, since the Westinghouse engineers understood the tape
cracks were actually resulting from the migration phenomenon well, but werent
groundwall migrating in the slot toward the axial sufficiently lucky to have added linseed oil. By
centerline of the core. (At operating the mid-1940s, most of their stator windings on
temperatures the asphalt was basically a liquid.) their larger generators were experiencing fatal
Photo1. migration. On a crash basis they developed the
Thermalastic (an epoxy-like polyester)
groundwall system. This was a remarkable
accomplishment, particularly in view of the
relatively primitive polyester resins available at
that time.

During the ensuing years, all OEMs developed


improved groundwall systems: Micapal (a
polyester-like epoxy), Micapal II (a true epoxy),
Photo1. Tape separation of resulting from
Thermalastic-Epoxy (a true epoxy), Micadur,
migration of the groundwall insulation.
etc.
In retrospect the better solution would have been
All these insulations systems rely on mica
a higher softening point temperature. But
because of its remarkable partial discharge (PD)
somewhere around 1935 for reasons not
resistance properties. (No man-made product
recorded, the GE engineers diluted the asphalt
begins to have the incredible PD resistance of
with about 1/3rd linseed oil. Linseed oil has the
mica. PD is inevitable in the rectangular
interesting property of becoming more viscous if
configurations of stator bars.) But mica brings
held at elevated temperature, thus if a GE
with it poor mechanical properties, e.g., brittle,
generator was not cycled for 3 or 4 years after
non-extensible, no mechanical strength whatever

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in cross-grain tension. Thus stator groundwall
insulation systems remain with limited The predominant problem associated with
mechanical properties, and when subject to groundwall stress is the phenomenon referred to
bending stress, e.g., short-circuit forces, fracture as partial discharge (PD), sometimes incorrectly
about like glass. It remains for another called corona. The stress gradient within the
generation of engineers to find a way to groundwall results in electrical breakdown in the
eliminate the need for mica in stator winding inevitable tiny voids in the groundwall. These
groundwall insulation. Perhaps by use of cable mini-arcs tend to eat through any insulation
windings or oil submerged stators. system that does not rely on the remarkable PD
resistance of mica.
Groundwall Voltage Stress Levels
If the outside surface of the groundwall is not
The stress on the groundwall has a dramatically adequately grounded, there will be discharges of
important impact on electrically-related much more energy. This in turn can result in
problems associated with stator windings. The surface PD, indicated in Photos 2 & 3.
significance of this impact is understood by
realizing that duties associated with stress have
been found to be in the range of a 7th to 11th
power function of the stress level. For example,
if the design stress is increased by 20%, the duty
increases by about (1.2)9, or about 500%.
Recognizing this attribute, stress has been
increased relatively slowly over the years by
design engineers.

By 1950, the stress level on the asphalt-


insulation systems was about 45 volts/mil (mil = Photo 2. Significant surface partial discharge
.001). With the advent of hard (polyester-type) indication in the slot.
systems, the stress level was increased to around
54 vpm. By the mid-1960s, improved (epoxy)
systems were being used, and the stress levels
increased to the low 60s vpm range. But this
range was found very restrictive as designers
were under pressure to produce larger and larger
indirectly cooled generators, both air and
hydrogen cooled. In these machines, where the
copper thermal losses had to transmit through
the groundwall, thinner groundwall insulation
became highly valuable. From this pressure, and
in recognition that root-cause electrical failures Photo 3. Significant surface partial discharge
of the groundwall insulation were rare, evolution indication in the endwinding.
toward much higher stress levels occurred. At
present, stress levels exceeding 90 vpm are Both of these photos show conditions that
being used. The magnitude of (90/60)9 is too appear very serious, but careful examination and
large a number to contemplate (~2500%). Root- scraping with a thumbnail would find no
cause electrical groundwall failures can be penetration into the mica groundwall.
expected to become common. (Nevertheless, the conditions cannot be ignored
as in air-cooled generators, ozone generation
will be significant, and there is no assurance that
Problems Associated with Groundwall penetration of the mica may not eventually
Voltage Stress begin.)

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Furthermore, the increased capacitive energy
increases the duties on endwinding grading
systems. For example, the junction between end-
arm grading and slot grounding paints. Photo 4.

Photo 6. Failure at another of the phase break


locations.

A large number of generators rely on physical


spacing to hold the voltage stress. So long as the
surfaces are clean, operation is satisfactory. But
when surface contamination occurs, massive
arcing can occur. Photo 7.
Photo 4. Burning at the junction of
grading/grounding systems.

The damage at this junction is often regarded as


PD but is actually burning because of
inadequately low interconnection to carry the
capacitive current in the end arm grading
system.

Where non-mica insulation has been used in Photo 7. Bare conductor exposed at each series
endwindings, reliability has sometimes been and phase joint. Yellow arrow.
seriously compromised. One example is shown
in Photos 5 & 6, where phase joints were A final observation. Stator winding electrical arc
insulated with non-mica potting compound and damage normally accompanies stator winding
Nomex. failure, but the actual root cause is usually
mechanical, e.g., vibration, fracture, foreign
object, contaminants. To this point in time,
generator failures due to purely electrical duties
are uncommon.

Bare Bar Stranding

Because eddy current losses would immediately


melt a stator bar made with sold copper, a
stranded design has always been required. On
Photo 5. Indications of PD on the surface of one coil windings, no special transposition is needed,
of the 3 line-to-line voltage phase break i.e., the top and bottom bars of a coil
locations. automatically tend to cancel out the voltage
difference between the top and bottom strands in
the half-coils. (In this document, the term bar
is used to define a half coil. For convenience the
term bar will be used almost exclusively.)

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On bar windings where it is usual to solidly
connect all strands at each end of the bar, this
cancelation of radial flux difference in the slots
does not occur. Very early (in 1915) a Swiss
engineer, Mr. Roebel, invented an elegantly
simple way to construct this transposition on
bars. His invention was no great scientific
discovery, but rather was a remarkably simple
way to accomplish a very difficult task Photo 8. Major winding failure from shorted
construct the transposition. It is so strand groupings. (See also Photo 7.)
manufacturing friendly, the Roebel transposition
system is universally used by all OEMs, with the Strand Insulation
exception of those few who have manufactured
smaller bar windings without consolidating the A small voltage exists between adjacent strands,
strands at the ends of the bars. probably always less than 1 volt, and the strands
must be individually insulated. Originally cotton
The standard Roebel transposition effectively would have been used, then glass and now
compensates the radial flux density gradient in commonly Dacron-glass. This material is thin,
the slot portion of the winding. But on larger typically 1 to 3 mils/side.
generators of non-coil design, the radial flux
gradient in the endwindings becomes A larger voltage exists between tiers of strands.
sufficiently large to cause problems. (This Here a vertical separator is inserted between
concern is automatically eliminated in coil tiers. The stress may be as high as 15 volts and
windings.) Several approaches have been used the thickness may be in the order of 15 mils.
here. The simplest is that of a 540o Roebel Photo 9.
rotation in the slot. (Mr. Roebels invention was
single 360o rotation.) The somewhat
complicated 540 rotation performs a correct
compensation in the slot while inverting the
strands at the two endwindings beyond the core.

Another approach for endwinding radial flux


compensation has been to sub-group the bar
strands into bundles of strands; bundles may
range from as few as 1 strand to as many as 14 Photo 9. Vertical separator in 3 bar designs. Red
or more. These bundles are maintained arrows. (Strand insulation can be seen as the
throughout the entire phase belt. The bundle small separation between strands.)
design greatly complicates the winding
manufacturing process and has been Voltage Grounding and Grading
accompanied by numerous service problems.
Photo 8. If the outside surface of the groundwall is not
tied directly to ground, PD will exist between
ground and the bar surface. Consequently a
semi-conducting paint is applied to the outside
surface of the slot portion of the bar (and usually
about 2 beyond the slot at each end). If
properly applied, and of good quality, this paint
will eliminate the PD by periodically grounding
the outside surface of the bar insulation to the
slot iron.

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More complicated is the necessity to grade the Field Windings
voltage of the grounding paint at each end of the
slot. Photo 10. The duty differences between stator insulation
systems and field insulation systems could
hardly be more different. On stator windings, the
voltages are high but the mechanical stresses are
low. On fields, the voltages are low, less than
700 Vdc, but the mechanical duties very high, in
the order of thousands of psi.

Because of the low voltages, and the need for


direct contact between cooling gas and winding
copper, isolation using electrical creepage
surfaces is common. So long as the insulation
remains in place and does not become
contaminated with conductive materials, the
Photo 10. End arm grading, red arrow. Slot systems tend to perform well. But because the
grounding, yellow arrow. mechanical duties are high, problems occur.
Typically problems result from fracture, cut-
The engineering principles here are complex, but through and shifting of location of the insulation
the mechanics are relatively simple. Originally components. As a result, service problems
asbestos tape was applied for a distance of relating to insulation failure are common on
perhaps 7 to 12 inches beyond the end of the fields.
slot grading paint, depending on winding
voltage. In the 1960s the industry went Slot Liners (Ground Insulation)
universally to silicon-carbide both to eliminate
the hazard of asbestos, but because the silicon- Until the about 1960, the ground insulation for
carbide is a more effective approach to grading. the coils consisted of enclosing the coil with
cotton or asbestos cloth for mechanical stability
Series/Phase Joint Insulation and mica flake for insulating properties. Photo
11.
Normally these joints were insulated with mica
tapes. Beginning about in the 1970s, synthetic
resins were used (inside a non-metallic box) to
insulate series joints; this is perfectly acceptable
because the contained electric stress is low,
except during the short-time hipot tests. Mica
tape insulation for the phase connections is
preferable because the electrical operating
stresses are relatively high at the phase
locations. Photos 5 & 6. Photo 11. Failed asbestos-mica field slot liner.

Physical spacing has also been commonly used This composite structured served adequately
by some OEMs. This design approach is safe for because of the low voltage stresses. In more
hipot test and operational stresses providing recent years, Nomex, glass/epoxy fabric, and
the creepage paths remain uncontaminated, and composites of glass/epoxy and Nomex have
providing there is not a conductive plasma become popular. Generally this ground
resulting from arcing of a failing electrical insulation is in a U-shape, closed at the top by a
connection. In the event the insulating capacity creepage block. Photo 12.
is violated, a ring of fire can result. Photo 7.

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historic insulation system. Again, around 1960
transition was made to a laminate structure of
heavy glass cloth and epoxy resin. The laminate
is degraded somewhat when the 300C retaining
ring shrinks down onto the epoxy glass;
however, the materials that are used are
sufficiently thick and thermally stable that the
electrical strength remains adequate for single
use. (New replacement material must be used if
the ring is removed.)

Insulating block material is used to hold coil


shape and to insulate the axial locations of the
endwindings. Photo 14.

Photo 12. Typical non-direct cooled field slot.

These ground insulation systems have been


subject to failure primarily due to contamination,
fracture, migration and cut-through. Photo 13.

Photo 14. Insulating blocks used to insulate


between coils by maintaining physical spacing.

WINDING SUPPORT SYSTEMS

Stator Windings
Photo 13. Slot liner with damage from an Slot Support Systems
electrical creepage failure.
From the beginning, stator bars were held in the
Turn Insulation slots by wedges of treated paper or hardwood.
The electromagnetic forces were low (almost
The voltage between turns is low, typically 1 to non-existent), the groundwall insulation was
5 volts. Historically mica tape was used, but for soft, and bars had little cause to vibrate. The
the last 50+ years, thin glass/epoxy laminate has wedges held the bars in the slots and kept them
been in common use for turn insulation. So long from falling out of the slots in service, and
as physical spacing is maintained, turn shorts are maybe kept the bars from being thrown out of
unlikely. However, the integrity of the space can the slot in the event of a sudden short circuit.
be violated by fracture or migration of the
material, or by conductive contaminants The wood materials used for 50 years were
bridging the spacing. Failure of turn insulation is satisfactory. But wood inevitably shrinks, and
relatively common. the resulting looseness of wedges was a concern.
With the advent of man-made resins, in the
Endwinding Insulation 1950s transition was made to resin/cotton,
resin/asbestos, and then resin/glass materials.
Under the retaining rings, sheet laminate of (The harder resin/glasses can wear into the core
heavy-weave asbestos cloth and mica was the

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iron if loose, and this can be a concern.) Photo Others relied on side packing and tighter
15. wedges. Photo 17. Finally the industry added the
radial pressure spring almost universally on
large generators.

Photo 15. Non-glass wedges in an asphalt-


insulated stator winding.

But when hard groundwall systems, i.e.,


polyesters, were introduced in the 1950s, a
shocking condition surfaced bar vibration.
(You could walk by the generator and hear the Photo 17. ABB wedge system of about the
noise from the impact of the bars in the bottom 1980s. (Side packing in orange.)
of the slots.) Needless to say, windings failed
very soon, from mechanical wear and impact, Slot bar vibration incidents continue to occur.
and from vibration sparking. An immediate fix But in general, if the wedging system remains
was implemented, i.e., wedging with tight tight vertically, if clearance does not exist under
downward pressure on the bars. the bottom bar, and excessive side clearance is
not permitted, problems are unlikely.
The electromagnetic force (EMF) is essentially
all radially downward in the slot, but if radial Endwinding Support Systems
clearance existed in the slot, the bars would
bounce off the bottom of the slot and vibrate The parameters relative to slot wedging and
vigorously. Also, if excessive side clearance endwinding support have little in common. The
existed, the bars would rattle in the slot. endwinding EMF is lower but still substantial
roughly one-third to one-half that of the slot
These relatively simple wedging systems were forces. Because the opportunities for supporting
satisfactory on indirect-cooled windings, but the the bars in the endwinding are minimal,
slot EMF on the direct-cooled windings was endwinding vibration has been much more
much higher, and vibration recurred. GE solved difficult to successfully address than slot
this situation with the side pressure spring vibration.
system. Photo 16.
Also, until recently there has not been available
instrumentation to safely and accurately measure
magnitudes of in-service endwinding vibration.
Design engineers have not had tools to directly
assess the success (or failure) of their new
designs. Thus engineers have had to rely on
intuition and best judgment in producing new
designs, and await accumulation of service
experience to determine if the design change
was successful.

Photo 16. GE wedging system, about 1965. In the early years, the endwinding EMF was so
More recently top ripple springs were added. low that almost anything was going to be alright.

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The top and bottom bars in the endwinding, if The resulting GE endwinding system is shown
tied together, form a rather strong mechanical in cross-section in Photo 21.
structure. It remained primarily only to provide
support to the bars (or coils) as they were being
initially installed. Photos 18 & 19.

Photo 21. Cross-section of the early high-force


GE endwinding support system.
Photo 18. A 1950s vintage string-tied
endwinding support system. Other OEMs evolved support systems examples
of which are shown in Photos 22 &23.

Photo 19. A large, 1960s vintage string-tied Photo 22. Modern Siemens-Westinghouse
system in cross-section. support system.

However, as generators became large, the EMF


became so great that endwinding vibration
became ubiquitous. Starting about 1960, OEMs
went into major development programs,
spending millions of dollars developing designs
that would hold the extremely high sudden short
circuit forces as well as the significant normal
operation forces. Photo 20 shows the 4th and last
of a series of full-scale models used by GE to
develop the system.
Photo 23. Alstom endwinding support system.

In spite of these huge OEM expenditures,


endwinding support remains an ongoing
problem. Parts become loose and wear holes in
groundwall insulation. Photo 24.

Photo 20. GE model stator IV (model on left),


circa 1968.

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Field Windings

The mechanical forces on field windings are


extremely high resulting from up to 8000 Gs
centrifugal force acting radially at the tops of the
slots. The metallic wedges can hold copper coils
in the slots, and there are stable insulating
materials that can generally function acceptably
against these steady-state radial forces. It is the
Photo 24. Hole worn through insulation to bare cyclic duties resulting from start/stop and load
copper by loose support component. changes that are the primary source of troubles.

Connections become resonant and break off or The winding copper is a primary source of
fracture the bar. Photo 25. service problems. Copper has poor mechanical
properties, even at room temperature. Yield
strength is low, fatigue properties poor. At
elevated temperature, above about 130C, these
marginal properties begin to fall off. Unlike
steel, copper can only be work hardened; it
cannot be hardened by quenching. With these
low mechanical properties, and the inherent high
mechanical duties, designers have had a difficult
challenge producing support systems that
Photo 25. Series connection broken off and lying successfully restrained copper coil dimensions
under winding. and prevent movement in position.

Sudden short circuit occurs and cracks bars. It is An indirectly cooled slot support design was
doubtful that any design today can experience a shown earlier in Photo 12. In this design, heat
worst-case short circuit without damage to the losses must pass through insulation and forging
bars in the endwindings. Photo 26. iron to be removed by the flow of cooling gas.

These indirect-cooled designs were used until


direct cooling was required for higher generator
output starting around 1960. A typical direct-
cooled shot is shown in Photo 27.

Photo 26. Fractured stator bar. (Crack at arrow.)

Endwinding concerns will remain into the


future, particularly from local or general
loosening of the systems allowing component Photo 27. Typical direct-cooled field slot for
wear to occur and resonances to develop. smaller modern generators.
However, it can be expected that with the new
capability to safely and accurately measure Electrical isolation in all field designs relies on
endwinding vibration, the designs will creepage (voltage tracking over an insulated
substantially improve and reliability will surface) and on puncture (voltage penetrating
substantially increase. directly through an insulating material).
Creepage isolation is used much more on the

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directly cooled windings, which makes them
more vulnerable to contamination.

A typical endwinding blocking scheme is shown


in Photo 28.

Photo 30. Badly over-temperature and distorted


endwinding.

As the windings lose position, the insulating


materials tend to wear and crack. Grounds and
Photo 28. Endwinding blocking under retaining shorted turns/coils result from damaged and
ring. contaminated insulation. Photo 31.

The radial blocking (red arrow) attempts to hold


the coils against distortion and from moving
axially. The axial blocking (yellow arrow)
primarily attempts to prevent coil distortion. But
because the coils are not blocked continuously
(to allow for cooling gas flow), and because of
the poor mechanical properties of copper,
distortion is common. Photo 29.

Photo 31. Two largest coils shorted together due


to extensive contamination.

Further complicating reliable field operation is


the need for uniform cooling of the coils in the
rotor body. In Photo 32, the turn insulation
and/or top creepage block have shifted axially
out of correct location. This partial blockage of
some slots and not others will result in bowing
Photo 29. Badly distorted top turn on smallest of the field (acting as a bi-metallic strip). The
coil. resulting bow will cause a thermal unbalance
vector, and as it grows over time, may force
Because of the poor high-temperature properties attempts to rebalance the field. If the conditions
of copper, significant over-temperature can continue to deteriorate, eventually a field repair
result in fatal changes in coil dimensions. The or rewind will become necessary.
result will be an immediate forced outage. Photo
30.

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dramatic, i.e., hydrogen tends to detonate and
produce a high pressure wave. This wave can
blow the siding off the entire building and bend
a steel door. Photo 33.

Photo 32. Insulation/copper turn misalignment


in the slot.

GENERATOR COOLING METHODS


Photo 33. Steel door caved by hydrogen
Originally, generators were cooled by once- detonation wave.
through air flow. Contamination problems lead
to closed ventilation systems, with water-to-air Size limitation came again at around 200 MW in
heat exchangers to remove the thermal losses, the mid-1950s and manufacturers began
i.e., the TEWAC cooling system Totally development of direct-cooling methods, i.e.,
Enclosed Water to Air Cooling. This type the cooling media in direct contact with the
system is still very popular for smaller size copper electrical conductors of the stator and
generators. rotor.
But by the 1930s ratings were reaching a size On the rotor, this involved leaving cooling
where the ability of cooling with air was limiting methods such as Photo 34.
further increase in rating. It was recognized that
use of hydrogen gas as the atmosphere had
important advantages: low density, high specific
heat, and the high thermal conductivity. In
particular, windage losses were reduced to about
1/14th that of air. It was also recognized that
hydrogen gas was highly explosive, unless
hydrogen purity (freedom from oxygen) was
kept out of the range between about 4% to 94%
oxygen, by volume.

A high-level development program produced the


necessary hydrogen shaft seals and system Photo 34. Indirect cooling of a rotor winding.
controls to permit the first hydrogen-cooled
generator to enter service in the USA in 1937. In rotor winding indirect cooling, gas flows in
By coincidence, this was the year of the passages within the forging, thus cooling the
Hindenburg hydrogen-filled air ship disaster. forging. The cooled forging then cools the
But there was no OSHA at that time, and copper by conduction.
hydrogen cooling came into common usage for
larger generators. With direct cooling, the gas is in direct contact
with the copper, Photo 35.
Over the years there have been a few hydrogen
accidents involving serious plant damage and
personnel injury and death. The nature of
hydrogen fire is such that damage can be

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Photo 37. Well designed copper header liquid
connection.
Photo 35. Direct cooling of a rotor winding.
Less common is the use of stainless steel tubes
Stator windings until about 1960 were cooled individually welded into a stainless header
indirectly, left bar in Photo 36. Two types of separate from the copper strand connection.
direct cooling were developed during the late Photo 38.
1950s and are in present usage, center and right
bars in Photo 36.

Photo 38. Stainless steel tube header.


Photo 36. Indirect, direct-gas and direct-liquid
stator bar cooling methods. The direct-liquid designs have had OEM
specific service problems, but in general have
With indirect cooling, all thermal losses must performed well.
traverse the thickness of the ground insulation.
This electrical insulation is also a quite excellent
thermal barrier, thus the incentive to go to direct
GENERATOR ROTOR FORGINGS
cooling methods.
The mechanical duties on rotor forgings are
With direct-gas cooling, only the strand and tube
extremely high on high speed generators, and
insulation must be traversed. These barriers are
great effort has gone into development and
thin and offer little thermal resistance. The bar
optimum application of these forgings. Thus a
mechanical structure becomes rather complex in
few words on this topic might be in order here.
this type of cooling, but a very large number of
direct-gas cooled generators are in service and
Rotor Body Forging
the design has generally performed well.
The main rotor body forgings reached a crisis
With direct-liquid cooling, the cooling liquid is
point in the mid-1950s. During factory high-
in direct contact with the heat-generating copper.
speed balance a main field forging failed
Two diverse approaches have been used for the
catastrophically in the OEM balance facility.
hollow stranding of liquid cooled windings.
This rotor was spun in a pit, with a heavy steel
Most common is hollow copper tubes with all
plate cover. When the forging failed, it scattered
strands, hollow and solid, brazed as a unit into a
parts throughout the plant. One 1000 pound
copper alloy strand header. Photo 37.
piece flew about 1000 feet, more or less axially
to the rotor centerline, and crashed down

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through the engineering offices. Fortunately the This field forging had neither of the features of
failure occurred during night shift and no one the first 2 failures and the resulting investigation
was in the office space. But the 2 young test was more thorough. It was found that there were
engineers operating the facility were both killed. huge inclusions in the basic forging, perhaps
The rotor was built with a bored shaft centerline greater than 10 in diameter.
of perhaps 6 diameter and the bore opening was
filled with 6 diameter magnetic steel plugs. At that time, as now, all forgings were coming
Investigation concluded that the bore plugs were from the same facilities for all OEMs, and it was
the root cause of failure. concluded that forging material imperfections
were the cause of all 3 failures. These inclusions
A few months later a field body forging failed in were inherent in the casting processes of that
an operating power plant. Damage was time in that there was heavy contamination in
considerable, but no one was killed. During the liquid metal. As the ingot cooled, the
manufacture of this rotor a machining error had impurities percolated toward the ingot center
occurred and a complicated correction was made and top. Further contributing to forging
to compensate this error. The failure was vulnerability was that the materials had an
assigned to this correction configuration. FATT (fracture appearance transition
temperature) in the range of 40C. This property
In 1956 a third rotor failed in an operating power was totally unacceptable since it means that the
plant. (The writer would have been on site at the material had poor ductility (behaved as a brittle
time of failure had he been home the evening material) below the 40C temperature, and
before to answer the phone.) This failure therefore was intolerant to fatigue stress cycles
severely injured 3 or 4 personnel and destroyed associated with start-stop duty.
the turbine-generator. Photos 39-40.
The OEMs in conjunction with the steel mills
went into a major development program which
in a very short time resulted in much better
forging quality and NDT procedures for
detecting internal material discontinuities. No
further failures occurred, partly because of
modified operating procedures applied to
existing rotors with questionable material
properties.

Photo 39. Non-drive end of the generator after (These modified operating procedures involved
forging failure. operation at higher cooling gas temperatures,
which had the unintended consequence of
exacerbating the stator winding tape migration
problem. See the discussion of stator groundwall
insulation, page 2 above.)

Retaining Ring Forgings

Retaining ring materials also went through a


complex evolution. Originally rings were
magnetic steel, but as size of generators
increased a point was reached where rings of
Photo 40. Failed forging (red), field winding non-magnetic material would be highly
(yellow), stator stranding (white). beneficial. (This need is based on complicated
electromagnetic design challenges related to

14
excess end-of-core heating as load moved The 18/18 alloy is not nearly as vulnerable to the
toward the leading power factor region.) stress corrosion phenomenon as the 18/5 alloy,
The most common of the non-magnetic rings and has been reliable in service since its
was the 18-5 (18% manganese-5% chrome) introduction. It is now the industry standard
material. A few other types of ring material were material for this application.
also used, including Gannalloy. The 18/5
material was found to be subject to stress
corrosion cracking, i.e., under high tensile load IN SUMMARY
and in the presence of water, inter-granular
cracking occurred. This condition led to several Clearly this text has been a very general
ring failures. One of these 18/5 ring in-service overview, with more left unsaid than said. No
failures was in the mid-1990s. Photos 41-42. doubt there are errors of omission as well as
commission. For these included errors and for
topics that are unclear or omitted, the writer
apologizes to the reader. (With the suggestion
that the writer be contacted for clarification.)
But hopefully the reader will have a little better
understanding, and perhaps appreciation, for the
efforts that went into the generator designs of
today.

Photo 41. Failed 18/5 ring. The evolution of large generator winding
insulation and support systems has presented
many difficult challenges to the engineers who
design the generators and to manufacturing
personnel who make these machines. Progress
will continue, but with continuing increasing
sizes and continuing cost pressures, old
problems will re-occur, present problems will
continue, and new problems will inevitably
develop.
Photo 42. Damage to stator from ring failure.
But this has been an impressive 100-year
This ring had been removed and given a full development cycle. Those remarkable engineers
non-destructive test 18 months earlier and was who have been at the forefront of this effort
found trouble-free at that time. Oddly, within the deserve our grateful appreciation.
same month, at a nearby plant a Gannalloy ring
also failed with similar damage.

The problem with 18/5 material was recognized


in the 1970s, and in about 1975 an OEM and
steel mill went into an intense joint development
program. From that effort the 18/18 (18%
manganese-18% chrome) alloy was developed.
The material acquires an extremely high tensile
strength produced in part by a high level of cold
expansion during the fabrication process. This
involves highly specialized and expensive
equipment that is only available at a few
facilities in the world.

15