Lyn Cost is the definition of an unsung hero. His job description is “routine maintenance,” but his impact is anything but routine.
“Lyn and his team consistently prove their value by finding equipment problems before they become equipment failures,” said Transmission Maintenance Area Manager Misty Walker. “When Lyn talks, we listen. By taking action on information he provides, maintenance efforts can be targeted to minimize customer impact.”
Cost and his team at Alabama Power operate behind the scenes and are responsible for checking, repairing or replacing equipment that most people will never see but whose proper functioning is critical to keeping the lights on, air conditioners humming and ovens cooking.
“Routine testing allows us to know the condition of the equipment. As the equipment ages, we perform historical analysis of the equipment,” said Cost, a 36-year employee of the power company. “The ultimate goal is reliability and excellent customer service.”
The team tests various types of oil-filled equipment, such as transformers and breakers, to identify deteriorated components. Since 2007, Cost has been the leading evaluator of load tap changers, which maintain the voltage coming out of substations.
Cost is recognized in the electric power business as an expert in analyzing load tap changers, and he has been called upon many times to talk at conferences about his experiences in locating and correcting problems.
Like many other aspects of the power industry, Cost’s work is being transformed by technology. For example, his group now uses thermal imaging cameras that enable employees to determine the temperature of each component on energized equipment without removing it from service.
Testing is vital because the equipment is energized when employees enter a substation to perform work. Because substations are often located near businesses and homes, safety and equipment condition are of utmost importance.
One of the latest and most impactful technologies being implemented is the use of unmanned aircraft systems – or drones – to inspect elevated equipment.
“It never gets boring,” said Cost, whose son, Michael, also works for Alabama Power. “I’m at a different location every day, never working with the same people.”