William (Bill) and Maria (Edna) Harkleroad
Cottonwood Energy, Deweyville, Texas
David (Dave) and Carol Harkleroad
Rijnmond Energie, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Cottonwood Energy, Deweyville, Texas
Magnolia Energy, Ashland Mississippi
Meghnaghat Power Station, Baranagar, Sonargoan,
Narayangonj,Bangladesh.

Revolutionizing Energy: The Role of Expertise in Power Plant Automation

In the rapidly evolving landscape of the energy sector, the significance of automation in power plants cannot be overstated. With over three decades of collective experience, William (Bill) Harkleroad and David (Dave) Harkleroad (PE) exemplify the pinnacle of expertise in this field. Their profound insights into the complexities of power station startups, control system designs, and the changing dynamics of the energy market provide a rich tapestry for understanding the pivotal role of automation in enhancing the efficiency, reliability, and competitiveness of power plants.


The Evolution of Expertise in Energy Automation


William Harkleroad's journey through the controls industry has witnessed a paradigm shift—from a realm brimming with expertise to a landscape somewhat bereft of deep, process-specific knowledge. Today's DCS (Distributed Control System) engineers, while proficient in hardware and programming, often lack the nuanced understanding essential for tuning and optimizing plant controls. This gap in expertise is not just an academic concern; it directly impacts the operational efficiency and competitive edge of power plants.


Conversely, David Harkleroad's extensive experience in designing control systems for a diverse range of boilers highlights the intricate nature of automation in power generation. His work encompasses an impressive array of technologies, from small package boilers to large utility boilers, using various fuels and adhering to stringent safety codes. This versatility underlines the importance of specialized knowledge in addressing the unique challenges of different power systems.


Challenges in the Contemporary Power Market


The current power market is fraught with challenges. New technologies and merchant plants have altered the playing field, introducing a higher demand for repeatable performance, efficiency, and reliability. Regulations have become more stringent, pushing plants towards greater accountability and sustainability. In this context, the role of automation becomes not just beneficial but essential for survival and success.


The Impact of Automation on New Plant Startups


New power plants often fall prey to the lack of deep expertise in the field. William Harkleroad's observations point to systems left incomplete or non-functional by startup personnel, primarily due to their insufficient grasp of the involved processes. This lack of reliability in even basic subsystems can hamper a plant's ability to operate competitively. However, these challenges are not insurmountable. With the right expertise, plants can recover and even excel in today's competitive market.


Customized Solutions and Training: A Path to Optimization


Both Harkleroads emphasize the importance of customized solutions and training. David’s experience in programming control designs into various vendor systems and creating operator interfaces illustrates the need for tailored approaches to meet specific plant requirements. Similarly, William's venture into consulting and optimizing plant performance showcases how customized automation solutions can significantly enhance a plant's operational efficiency.


Conclusion: Harnessing Automation for Competitive Edge


The Harkleroads' contributions to the energy sector are a testament to the power of expertise in automation. Their work in helping plants recover their competitive edge through superior automation capabilities and technical know-how is a clear indicator of the transformative potential of specialized knowledge in this field. As the energy sector continues to evolve, the fusion of deep expertise with innovative automation solutions will undoubtedly be a key driver in shaping a more efficient, reliable, and competitive energy landscape.


In essence, the journey of William and David Harkleroad through the domain of power plant automation is not just a story of individual excellence but a beacon for the entire industry, illuminating the path towards a more optimized, sustainable, and forward-thinking energy future.