Professional Playa Power Protocols

A place to discuss all things involving power and lighting. Generator tips, alternative energy, lighting your camp/bike/art/self and more.

Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby bradtem » Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:43 pm

Yikes. I would be curious as to how much power the Robot Heart rig actually draws from their generators, if they have taken the time to look at the meters at it when it's going full blast. I presume they have put or tow out a 75kw or larger unit with their rig. But then, RH doesn't really drive around, IIRC, it sets up and plays in one spot for a while, no?
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby some seeing eye » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:47 pm

On the robot hijack, there is no need for that much power. And unfortunately bass carries relatively omnidirectionally. When I sailed small craft we were tormented by power boats making stupid wakes. The women had a saying the bigger the boat the smaller the member. So it is with BM. I am well known for advocating rational measured sound levels.

Now returning to the original topic. In my conversations with Lance Sr, he suggested industrial strength thermally overrated spider boxes and transformers. The connector type, as long as they are can support the amperage is of lesser importance. Burying the cables gives them much greater capacity at the depth DPW digs because of thermal transfer to the soil. Leaving them out in the sun, less. Yes, 3 phase is a PITA to plan balancing. And yes, there is a major electrical accident waiting to happen. Which will be sad. Basic electrical safety, don't work live and work with a partner. Also consider lockout protocols. Many people on the playa are not in a rational state.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby bradtem » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:53 pm

Yeah, most people bury their cables. If DPW will come by with the trencher it's very useful -- it is recommended you bring a few bribes with you, like good scotch, to get them to come visit you in a timely manner. It shouldn't be that way, but ...

Generally, those who are running big runs of 4/0 or 2/0 and have calculated their loads and voltage drops are unlikely to overheat their cables. The big risk there is the people who try to plug in RVs with 14AWG or even 16AWG orange extension cords from the hardware store. Even with these cables it's pretty easy to bury the cable a few inches. Get a pick or axe or something heavy and drag to make your trench and cover it. However, make sure it doesn't go where people are likely to then set up structure and pound rebar onto it. It would be nice if there were a temporary paint that could paint lines that would vanish without a trace in a week.

I would like to hear more from people who have run higher voltage and had step-down transformers. It's always been tempting but I wasn't sure it was cost effective unless you have a huge amount of power to move.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby Ulisse » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:05 pm

For those of you running large multiuser systems, how are you running grounds?
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby Dustdevil » Wed Sep 25, 2013 3:35 am

We cross the ground to the neutral on the 3 phase runs. We do this at each main panel for each of the three generators. We do NOT cross link the grounds or neutrals among the generators. The only problem we have had is dust in the GFI's. We have begun removing them from the C boxes, but we only use a limited amount of C boxes as most of our gear has been specially constructed for the Playa. We have modified the C boxes to accept 30A RV plugs. We use these for limited use at the end of a long 3 phase run.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby Ulisse » Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:23 pm

If you are running 4 wire 3 phase without parelling generators, and are driving rods then then that sounds like a fairly good system. Pretty much how a small utility would do it.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby some seeing eye » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:45 pm

You can dig a trench and lay the ground rods horizontally then dig them up again. You have to beef up the clamping to the ground wire because of corrosion. I haven't looked to see how DPW does now. You could just lay a piece of whatever size ground wire in the trench, no ground rod.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby bradtem » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:55 pm

Once you have grounded your generator, note that you do not need your ground wire to be as thick as your hot/neutral wires, you can step down a couple of AWG numbers. Saves a lot of weight. Particularly when you take the 3-leg distribution approach where you have power lines in 3 directions from the generator, and you run only one of the hots along each one. In addition, when building your own distro boxes, it's not too much more expensive to put GFCI receptacles in them so ground faults will not trigger current down the ground (at least downstream of the GFCI.) You can also get breakers with GFCI on them, and a lot of the rental distro boxes you will get may have GFCIs on them.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby EspressoDude » Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:09 am

note that if you are using the trench and lay in a ground rod, that the trench has to be deep enough to get into wet conductive playa (2.5 ft per NEC 250-83(c)(3) ) and 8ft long.

if the distribution conductors are 2/0 or smaller, the grounding conductor can be #6 ( NEC table 250-94 )

comment about buried conductors: a 2/0 conductor with 60 degree C rated insulation has an ampacity of 145 amps buried or in a conduit. in free air the ampacity is 225 amps ( NEC tables 310-16 and 310-17 )
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby Dustdevil » Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:05 pm

All of our runs are 5 wire three phase to the sub panels. While it would save some weight to use a smaller ground, we use 00 on all of the wires except from the genny to the main panel. I believe those are 0000. Very short run, though. We do have the ability to connect the various sections of the Village if a genny goes down so the others take up the slack. Next year we will most likely run only two gennys, the 70 and the 125. We will keep the 85 on site for a back up. The weight of the copper we brought this year was tremendous. Our Village covered the area from A to B streets and 4:00 to 4:30. All 8 camps had full power hookups.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby EspressoDude » Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:33 pm

Thank you DustDevil!! It is excellent to be part of this village. The power crew has 5 or 6 folks that are very knowledgeable and could address about any power issue, though they were very few.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby bradtem » Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:40 pm

If you are going to have a 125kw, then yes, you can generate over 350 amps per phase sustained, and 4/0 is not enough over a long run. With a 75kw generator you should not generate more than 200a per phase, and so you can save a lot of weight sending one phase with 200a to 3 distribution points, each point able to handle 10 RVs or so. (This is pushing the edge since the playa is so hot at the times you will draw this current.) RVs only draw their peak load when starting the AC compressor, which is only a problem if they all do it at once (like when turning on your grid) so it can be wise to turn it one sub-distro at a time or less.

Almost all rental gear uses all 3 phases though, so this is an approach that only works when building your own gear. Which you usually need to do when building something to distribute to RVs.

If doing it today, I see looking around that decent power panel boxes have come down to nice low prices, and you can get TT-30R inline receptacles for under $20. Put each one on a reasonable length of 10/3 and you should be able to make a pentapus of 5 legs cheaply. Cheaper than you can rent the few RV lunchpails out there. Turns out this sort of approach is better. When we made distro boxes with a blank of TT-30Rs on them, you find people have to run RV extension cables to get to those boxes from all but perhaps 2 RVs in the pod of 5, so you might as well build in the extra length. Each RV has a 30a master breaker in it already, though it's not that expensive to add one of your own in the panel to stay perfectly clean to cover a short in the intervening 10/3 cable to the RV's panel. If you put 5-15Rs or 5-20Rs on the box those must definitely have a breaker.

You can build your box without too much money and have it take in camlok, 100a stage pin or Hubbell (2 phases) or even switch it around as needed if you have pigtails for all of these, which is what we've done since some years we have sent power to the local distros over stage pin cables, and sometimes over tempower hubbell cables -- whatever is cheapest and easiest to rent.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby Dustdevil » Sun Sep 29, 2013 6:14 pm

One of the primary reasons for sending three phase to each panel is so we can balance the load. Each cable is marked and if the load exceeds 15-20% out of balance, it is a very simple matter to find which line is pulling more currect and switch them. We balanced the loads every afternoon during peak draw times. Once in a while we couldn't get it as close as I would have liked, but we did pretty well.
Our 125 has 300A breakers on each leg and the 70 has 195A on each leg. When the load comes up gradually, we have actually measured the 70 at 225 per leg. That was the year we decided that the 125 was more suited to our needs. When we became a Village, we used only the 125 the first year but the cable runs were too long.
The other problem we have on the hot days is the main breakers going for what seems like no obvious reason. We would be at 50% capacity or less and still have it trip. The first time was someone with a MIG welder we didn 't know about.
Next we found that the sub breaker (for lack of a better description) is adjustable for the thermal load. There is a small relay/breaker that controls the main breaker. We have had one fail and we adjusted the other units for max themal load. No more issues. Well almost no more. We have a dirty contact on the 440/220/ single/three phase rotary switch. We would lose one leg at various times. The switch must have 75 leads going to it. It will take longer to mark the wires and pull the switch for cleaning than it will to clean the switch. Playa Dust!!!!
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby bradtem » Sun Sep 29, 2013 8:10 pm

So when you had 225 amps on each leg, I am curious, what did you have on the ends of the legs? How many RVs or other air conditioners? While many RVs seem to draw an amp or two when doing nothing, the AC should be the bulk of the load. Did you have more than 11 RVs on a leg? Or something else like the welder or kitchen fridges? (The fridges, if modern, should not draw very much at average, though they might peak 7 or 8 amps. If they have an auto-defroster they will do more, ideally you should disable that for the playa. Do you get your RVs to turn their fridges to propane?

But yes, I do understand the need to balance in your situation. Generally the incremental cost of the larger generators is not that much at most rental houses. They take more fuel at idle which is another cost, but sounds like your network does not idle that much, probably not even in the night.

There are some new kill-a-watt clones I was thinking of trying that measure peak amps, those might be handy for this work.
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Re: Professional Playa Power Protocols

Postby Colonel Monk » Sun Mar 23, 2014 8:54 am

GreyCoyote wrote:If you think you need that kind of power for your audio, you may need to re-evaluate your "needs". There is a difference between making hellish and painful noise, and making an ambience that people will enjoy and talk about. It isnt about DBs, its about quality. Power does not equal quality.


Power = Headroom. I think that is what they are going for.

I play bass guitar and have some amps with ridiculous wattage, but I don't play them loud. But the bottom end they can make with that reserve power is palpable. For reggae and stuff with lots of overdriven bottom, there's no substitute.

I've got hearing damage from my younger (and not so younger) days, not so much from outright crazy volume, as exposure to loud for many hours. I hear the EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE at all times.

So I am also sensitive of ridiculous noise at Bman. But, there have been some really really awesome sounding vehicle systems and the tons of power they have in RESERVE is what makes them sound that way.

I think that, while we want to preserve the "wild west" of our city best we can, we need to make sure that yahoo DJs (who frankly, cannot hear the SPL from their booth BEHIND the speakers) are not damaging the hearing of participants.

If we don't already, the borg ought to have a limit that is just below the damage threshold, and in the spirit of self-policing, all major sound installations should be in possession of a decibel meter, and should use it.
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