KECI-TV: KECI-TV: Micro-wave Relay Site Power

CASE STUDIES

KECI-TV: KECI-TV: Micro-wave Relay Site Power

Overview

Until recently, we haven't really needed anything in the way of sales and service, because (the TEGs) just keep going. The generators have worked really well.

Wayne Soll,
engineer at Missoula's KECI-TV

The Situation

31-year, six-month run of continuous remote power ... GPT's TEG technology has kept NBC on the air in western Montana.  Montana is known as Big Sky Country, but if KECI-TV in Missoula doesn't get its broadcast signal across that sky and over the Continental Divide to an antenna tower in Butte about 100 miles away, it means NBC's three western Montana television affiliates suddenly fade to black. And the lynchpin of the entire operation? An isolated relay point at the top of a 9,800-foot mountain, accessible only after a 3?-hour drive on roads and another 2? hours on a treacherous, steep, switch back-heavy trail. "It's the only way for three stations – KCFW in Kalispell, KTVM in Butte and Bozeman, and KECI here in Missoula – to get our signals out to the rest of the NBC network," says Wayne Soll, an engineer for KECI-TV. "Basically, it means staying on the air, which means we can bill for commercials, which means we stay in business. It's definitely a critical link in the chain."

The Challenge

Decades ago, KECI had experimented with windmills as an attempt to provide power to its microwave relay site. The informal name of the summit, Windmill Peak, remained. The power source didn't. "In the 1960s and '70s, the technology of generators using wind power was pretty crude," notes Soll. "Up on the mountaintop, they kept coming apart, falling down, blades breaking. Wind generators just weren't cutting the mustard."

GPT's* Solution

In 1977, KECI-TV turned to Gentherm Global Power Technologies (GPT) *, whose hardy thermoelectric generators (TEGs) are renowned for their long-term, failsafe operation in remote locations. Two propane-fuelled Model 5120 TEGs, placed on Windmill Peak, provide constant power to a pair of microwave systems – radios, dishes, and amplifiers – that send digital TV signals back and forth across the top of the Continental Divide.

Results

Despite high winds and bitterly cold Rocky Mountain temperatures, GPT's TEG technology has kept NBC on the air in western Montana through thick and thin. When the power converter on one of the Windmill Peak TEGs finally needed replacing in the spring of 2009, it marked the end of a 31-year, six-month run of continuous remote power. "Very impressive. We were told to expect a 15-year lifespan, and we got more than 30 without any incidents," says Soll. "Until recently, we haven't really needed anything in the way of sales and service, because (the TEGs) just keep going. The generators have worked really well."
*Formerly Global Thermoelectric

Gentherm Global Power Technologies*(GPT)  Remote power products are designed for a minimum 20-year service life.


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*Formerly:
 Global Thermoelectric