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Oral-History:Charles Concordia

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The only technical part was in a little box written by Engarani at EPRI. He's in charge of it at the moment. He used to be on the West Coast and he works for EPRI now as manager of systems studies. But he wrote a little article which pointed out some of the new technical developments, but those are not the principal concerns. They should be more concerned with the government helping them out, or serving the public through more competition. The problem is that when you calculate the reliability it involves all three, always. The same thing is true with the telephone to a certain extent, and some people say that the telephone system now is as reliable now as it was when it was and AT&T monopoly.  
 
The only technical part was in a little box written by Engarani at EPRI. He's in charge of it at the moment. He used to be on the West Coast and he works for EPRI now as manager of systems studies. But he wrote a little article which pointed out some of the new technical developments, but those are not the principal concerns. They should be more concerned with the government helping them out, or serving the public through more competition. The problem is that when you calculate the reliability it involves all three, always. The same thing is true with the telephone to a certain extent, and some people say that the telephone system now is as reliable now as it was when it was and AT&T monopoly.  
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<p><flashmp3>189_-_concordia_-_clip_1.mp3</flashmp3></p>
  
 
I sort of agree with that. These sorts of conditions affected my work. I had the same job and like I say, I worked in a lot of different departments. It seems to be a sort of continual development, although each person thinks that his era is the era of change and that everything is new. In 1936, when I first joined the central station group, my boss Dave Jones said the peak load in the United States was growing at 7% a year, and it was doubling every ten years. He said, "How long can it keep up?" He suggested calculating some of that growth curve. He thought you could calculate the life cycle of these things. So in 1936 I sat down and calculated such a curve. The only thing I assumed was that it would come to an end, I didn't assume anything else. But I took the data we had in 1936 on the peak load and tried to fit the curve to it. I predicted that it would show a leveling off at 2025. That was ninety years in the future; it seemed like a long time. I didn't think anything more about it until 1966, about thirty years later another of my colleagues asked me the same question. So, I went back and did the same thing over again. I had twenty times the data. Everybody was keeping track of more in the electrical world. The EIA and the Federal Power commission and so on were all keeping track of this. But then I got the same answer. You might say now that's uncomfortably close.  
 
I sort of agree with that. These sorts of conditions affected my work. I had the same job and like I say, I worked in a lot of different departments. It seems to be a sort of continual development, although each person thinks that his era is the era of change and that everything is new. In 1936, when I first joined the central station group, my boss Dave Jones said the peak load in the United States was growing at 7% a year, and it was doubling every ten years. He said, "How long can it keep up?" He suggested calculating some of that growth curve. He thought you could calculate the life cycle of these things. So in 1936 I sat down and calculated such a curve. The only thing I assumed was that it would come to an end, I didn't assume anything else. But I took the data we had in 1936 on the peak load and tried to fit the curve to it. I predicted that it would show a leveling off at 2025. That was ninety years in the future; it seemed like a long time. I didn't think anything more about it until 1966, about thirty years later another of my colleagues asked me the same question. So, I went back and did the same thing over again. I had twenty times the data. Everybody was keeping track of more in the electrical world. The EIA and the Federal Power commission and so on were all keeping track of this. But then I got the same answer. You might say now that's uncomfortably close.  

Revision as of 19:52, 29 January 2009

Contents

About Charles Concordia

Charles Concordia was born on June 20, 1908, and grew up in Schenectady, New York. He had an early interest in music and radio, and this paved the way for his impressive career in electric power systems. In 1926 Concordia joined the General Electric Company, where he worked on early television research and continued his engineering education by taking classes at Union College. Five years later he joined GE's test program, an advanced engineering course. Concordia began focusing on systems engineering and electric utility work, and became GE's consultant to public utilities, advising on system protection and reliability. During World War Two Concordia worked on generators and turbines for naval destroyer propulsion, researched superchargers for airplanes, and helped develop ships' electrical drives. In the 1940s he chaired AIEE's subcommittee on large-scale computing devices and continued his consulting work after the war. Concordia retired from GE in 1973 but continued independent consulting for clients such as Westinghouse and power companies in Taiwan and Hong Kong. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the GE Charles A. Coffin Award, the GE Steinmetz Award, the Schenectady's Professional Engineers Society's Engineer of the Year Award, and the AIEE Lamme Medal. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Concordia is also a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering. He is a founding member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the international conference on large computing devices.

The interview spans Concordia's career, beginning with his early interest in radio. Concordia focuses on his years with GE, especially his work advising utility companies. He discusses his devotion to systems protection and reliability, including how this affected his assigned work on naval vessels and aircraft during World War Two. Concordia reminisces about many topics, including GE's advanced training program, 1960s and 1970s electrical blackouts in the Northeast, and his experiences with early computers. He describes his work with load shedding, large generators and motors, voltage regulation, series capacitor instabilities, differential analyzers, computer simulations, and international consulting. Concordia also expresses his opinions about changes in systems engineering over time, IEEE's role in the engineering community, and the merits of nuclear power.

For more information, see Charles Concordia's biography.


About the Interview

Charles Concordia: An Interview Conducted by Frederick Nebeker, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, 3 February 1994

Interview # 189 for the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Charles Concordia, an oral history conducted in 1994 by Frederik Nebeker, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


Interview

INTERVIEW: Charles Concordia
INTERVIEWER: Frederik Nebeker
PLACE: New York
DATE: February 3, 1994

Early Life and Education

Nebeker:

Why don't we start with your early life. You were born on the twentieth of June, 1908 in Schenectady.

Concordia:

Yes.

Nebeker:

What did your father do for a living?

Concordia:

He was a music teacher who taught piano, organ, the violin and so on. My father died when I was six years old and after that we were a one-parent family. I had two brothers, also, but unfortunately none of us became professional musicians. One of them preferred the piano, the other the violin. It is an amusing story that my father advised me not to specialize in one instrument. He told me that my fortè would be as a music critic. I said I wasn't good in it. I would sometimes criticize his playing on the piano and I think that is the reason he said that.

Nebeker:

What did you play yourself?

Concordia:

The piano, but I was not very skilled. I can hardly remember the notes nowadays, but it was enough that he thought I had an ear and good taste. I think he was right. I tend to listen to music critically. If I hear a false note, it makes me shudder. [Laughter]

Nebeker:

Were you interested in science or gadgets?

Concordia:

Yes. I would say that I had always been interested more in mechanical than electrical things. Of course when radio first came in, I was quite young. I never became a ham radio enthusiast. We were only at the stage where we got a little rectifier and headphones and connected it to the bedspring. We could communicate a mile away this way without difficulty. It was without voice and we had to learn the code. It wasn't until 1920 or so that Union College got what we used to call "CW", the Continuous Wave. Of course that was a big thrill when I heard someone playing the piano from the Union College station. That was, as far as I know, before any commercial stations.

People are always asking if I knew Steinmetz, but he died in 1923 when I was about fifteen. At that time, they had trouble think of new programs to put on the Continuous Wave. What could they do? Well, among other things, Steinmetz was an adjunct professor at Union, so he gave radio lectures on the electromagnetic field. They don't have that sort of thing nowadays, but in those days the ether was really a little disappearing.

Nebeker:

Yes, right.

Concordia:

So I have heard Steinmetz and I probably saw him on the street, but I didn't know him.

GE's Work on Radio and Early TV

Nebeker:

I see. You saw that you were more interested in mechanical things?

Concordia:

Yes. People today forget that television and radio were invented almost simultaneously. From a commercial point of view, radio came first and then television, but from a technical point of view they happened at the same time. They were working on television when I joined the company in 1926. I worked in what was then called the General Engineering Laboratory, and there they were even developing color television. At least they were talking about it in those days. But I wasn't working on that particular aspect of it. A friend of mine and I made a little television set with something similar to the Columbia system of rotating disk color.

Nebeker:

Yes.

Concordia:

The picture was only about two inches square They used to call it the Braun tube, and that was the beginning of the modern television. In fact, in 1927 Ernst Alexanderson became famous for making a high frequency generator. At least it was high frequency for those days, at 250 kHz. Years ago, Lamme had made the first high frequency generator which operated at 10,000 hertz. Then Alexanderson one-upped him by going up to 250 kHz. That was, I think, the best way of transmission in those days.

Nebeker:

Right.

Concordia:

He also was interested in television, and in 1927 he gave a demonstration in a theater in Schenectady of large screen television. Not many people remember that. It is cynical to say this, but the radio was so successful that they didn't want to disturb it until the market was developed.

Nebeker:

I've heard that about RCA, that they didn't put as much money into TV as they might have because they were very satisfied.

Concordia:

So I was working on radio and when the second World War came in, it disrupted things. All the development then went into the war effort. A lot of things got started before the war and then didn't come to fruition until afterwards. I think television was one of them, including color television.

Going back a little bit, the other thing being developed in GE Labs and other places was the talking movie. Talking movies had just come out. It is sort of amusing that some of my associates were called on to operate the equipment. Along with many others, I was offered the job of being an operator at the talking movie studios. Later I actually saw some of my friends' names in the credits and I thought, “why didn't I do that?” But just as well. It did seem a sort of dead end. And it came to an end, anyway. They had competing systems, one with phonograph disks and another system that put an optical soundtrack on the film.

Night Courses and GE Test Program

Nebeker:

What about your education?

Concordia:

I actually took evening courses. When I graduated from high school, I thought I knew more than any of the college professors. I earned my living in various ways, as a bill collector and whatnot. Among other things, I did a little tutoring of some the college students when I was in high school in mathematics. So I thought I had more talent than most of those guys did. I was impatient; I didn't want to wait another four years to get a job. I wanted to get out and do something.

So I went to the laboratory. There they had night classes. The very interesting thing about it was that if there was something that wasn't available in night classes, there you had some recourse. When I wanted to take time off and go up to Union College and take any course I pleased, they said, "all right, go." So I am very grateful to them for that. I could do whatever I wanted to, really. Then, after a while, it seemed that I was at a dead end in the laboratory. I said, “where I am going from here?” They suggested what they called an advanced engineering course. This was a three-year course and I took two years there.

Nebeker:

What was your first work at GE laboratories?

Concordia:

It was a stand position for testing instruments. Then I moved to another section where we did a lot of magnetic testing. That was where the galvanometers came in. We worked closely with the research lab. They were trying to develop new kinds of steel and we were testing them, you see. We tested current losses, and magnetizing curves, and all that sort of thing. So I worked on magnetic testing and various kinds of special testing, even the testing of wind measuring equipment.

Nebeker:

I have heard that a lot of distinguished engineers have come out of the GE test department.

Concordia:

This wasn't a test department, that's the thing. This was a laboratory, but most of the engineers who came there out of colleges went into a "test program," which consisted of machinery testing. It was a very good idea, because if they hadn't learned in college what a machine looked like they learned then. It was hands-on, and I thought it was a very good scheme. Later on for various reasons that disappeared. One reason I heard when I was a young fellow and didn't know much about the higher echelons was that the unions objected to having these young fellows making fifty cents an hour doing this work when they could have a union man. That same thing has occurred in the AIEE and IEEE. At one time they insisted on it in the ASME, too. The ASME was picketed over this issue.

I don't know whether the AIEE was actually picketed, but once when they had their meeting in New York and didn't hire a union man to run the slides, they got in trouble with the unions. I can well imagine that it happened to GE, too. The other reason was that things got to the point at least in certain areas, where they liked to hire somebody who could get right to work on a specific project. A fellow would have done his Ph.D. in a certain field and we knew he was an expert.

This was unfortunate, because what we used to do in the old days was to hire him and then assign him to a series of different areas. He spent three months in each department, and he was evaluated by each of them. When he got through, he was questioned: "what was he interested in, where does he want to go?" He was more likely to get into the right slots that way, and also more likely to be broadly educated. Because it is awfully hard to do that. I fancy myself to be someone who knows a little about everything but not too much about anything specific.

It is awfully hard to find us. Everybody is a specialist now, and some days you don't even know what is going on in the office next to you. I think this is deplorable. GE became sort of a consulting engineering service, you see. At first it was all internal, where people acted as sort of a go-between working with both the designers and the customers. They advised the customer on his problems and advising the designers what the problems were. They built their equipment sales on that, and it was a very useful thing. But then it got more and more project-oriented, and people got more and more concerned about cost. They wanted to know how you evaluated that kind of work. But you could evaluate somebody willing to pay for it, and so the simplest thing was to have everybody charge for everything. This disturbed the utilities. They used to get free information from GE, and now they had to pay for it. It became essentially a consulting engineering firm. It came a circle; if you hired a man now, you wanted a fellow who can earn you a few dollars right away, not a man you have to spend a year training. So there was a shift in the way things were done. Going back to my old work, I left the laboratory at that time and was on the test program for a little while.

Nebeker:

So you joined GE in 1926?

Concordia:

Yes. I was there until about 1930. I spent four or five years in the lab.

Nebeker:

At this time, you were taking some night classes.

Concordia:

During that whole period, yes. Then when I decided I wanted to leave the lab and go into engineering directly, I just transferred over to the test program just like the fellows that came out of college. I came out of four or five years of the lab and they came out of college.

Nebeker:

So that was in 1930 that you started the test program?

Concordia:

In 1930 or 1931. I inquired about this advanced engineering program and I thought the best way to do it was to start in like everybody else did and transfer over to the test program. I was over there about eight months or so. The advanced engineering program had a slightly different system: while you were taking the courses, you also had assignments in different departments, for maybe about six months or so. It was three year program. Most people took a year and then about a third of them were selected to go on to years two and three. Don't forget, this was 1931 or 1932 and there was a big depression going on there.

Nebeker:

Yes.

Concordia:

The company had the policy of hiring engineering graduates. I think they had an eight-month or ten-month contract with them initially. I came on at a time when they were thinking of discontinuing this. Things were bad in those days after the 1929 crash and they discontinued a lot of courses they were giving, maybe even the laboratory course that I took. I don't quite remember. At any rate, this one they kept, but they delayed it. They couldn't make up their minds and finally they did it. But they had nothing for these fellows to do, so unless you had a permanent job there or were selected to go on the next two years, (even if your contract was up, you could stay and finish the course), you were out. Now, in that case there were nine of us at that time who qualified for the extra two years, so we went on. Finally we came to the end and then I got an assignment.

Nebeker:

Now was this advanced engineering course taught the way a college program would be, with lectures and tests?

Concordia:

We had classes once a week. The philosophy of that time was to give us each week a really a difficult engineering problem similar to what would occur in real life. Maybe you didn't even have all the data you needed, but then you had to think with the right data that you were planted with. In the modern jargon, it was a fuzzy problem. Maybe they wouldn't like to hear me describe it that way. But in a way it was. Then we were supposed to write this up as an engineering report, and we were judged not only on the answer we got but also on the quality of the report. I think that was a very good idea. Every week during the first year you wrote a multi-page engineering report, so when you got through you couldn’t get stuck. I have observed that one of the most common faults of many people, not just engineers: is that if you ask what they did, they can tell you right away. But if you say, “write what you did,” they really agonize about how to get started. That was all knocked out of me. I learned how to get started, and that was a very valuable part of that course. I went on to the next two years. Some people had permanent jobs and other people were getting laid off. I went on then until 1934.

Nebeker:

You did all three years advanced?

Electric Utility Systems Work

Concordia:

Yes. I was one of nine people selected of thirty in the class. It was hard times and then the question was, "What kind of a permanent job should I get?" I went to the Central Station department, which was later called Electric Utility Engineering. It was sort of a systems engineering place in Schenectady. Then I went to Lynn, to work in the rotating machines department because I said I was both mechanical and electrical. I was quite struck by both of them and would like to say that I never found a job that I wasn't interested in. So I went over to Lynn and talked to them and then I came up to Schenectady and talked to the people there. Sel Crane met me in Schenectady. I was very impressed by him, and when he offered me a job I did a little agonizing. Then I went to Lynn and told people, “Sorry, I'll take this other job,” and essentially I was there from then on.

Nebeker:

What job was that?

Concordia:

Well, it was really systems engineering. It was primarily analyzing system problems in connection with the electric utility industry.

Nebeker:

The generating systems?

Concordia:

Not necessarily just the generators. It included the whole system. We had to consider all of it in analyzing the performances of the whole system.

Nebeker:

What year was that roughly?

Concordia:

That was 1934 or 1935. The people in Lynn called me up again and said, "Can't you come over here?" And I said, “Well, I am happy here,” but this kind of broke my heart. They said, "Come anyway." I went over there and they spent three days trying to talk me into staying. I really felt embarrassed, and I said, "I am too stuck on work to come here. I am not interested in it." I stayed, but I still have good relations with the Lynn people. Because the system problems involve mechanical as well as electrical things. I have been there ever since as a sort of a consultant, almost from the beginning.

When I was still a young fellow of 20 working in the laboratories, I heard about a patent that somebody had that he was licensing. They thought it would raise the price three to one. So they thought there must be some other way of doing it. I got my own patent in a few months. I don't think we had any intention of using my patent, but we could say we had another way of doing it. It was a way to lower the price back down, you see.

I made a lot of money for the company and got sort of a reputation. In fact, one of my bosses once told me, "I don't want you to work on any problem more than one hour. Your strength is as a consultant." That was when I was young, 21 or 22 old. So, I had that job; I don't know what the name of it was, you see. When I was employed by what was later called “Electric Utility," I still did a lot of consulting with the industrial people and the medical systems people and even with the appliance people.

Nebeker:

This was within GE?

Concordia:

Yes, except that GE gave advice to the utilities on electrical problems, and I was involved in that. A lot of my work was done in other departments of the company rather than the one that was paying my salary.

Nebeker:

I see.

Concordia:

It would be assessed. They got the money back but indirectly, perhaps as an allowance for the purchase of an industrial drive or that kind of thing. I think even by sitting in just one spot I got pretty broad experiences.

Nebeker:

What was your job called? What was the position title?

Concordia:

Sometimes it was "consulting engineer." But the specific title for when I first started in that group was called the laboratory assistant or something like that, and then it was "application engineer.” The company had the headquarters for the application engineers in the district offices, so we did a lot of consulting for the utilities in the sense that when there were some odd-ball problems that the district engineer couldn't help the customers with, somebody from headquarters was called in to help solve that problem. Sometimes that was me.

Nebeker:

What areas were your specialties?

Concordia:

Most of them were, in my class, Binary System Dynamics. That comes under System Protection and Control and was designed to improve the system reliability, and address system stability and disturbances. We tried to improve the power system's ability to withstand disturbances and still survive to serve the customer. I also worked on the design of industrial power and power systems, like the drives themselves and the various equipment.

World War II and Marine Generators

Concordia:

I did a lot of work on marine generators, electric generators which were mostly for propulsion. What got me started in that was World War II. The United States really was in the war several years before the formal declaration, though nobody admitted it. Finally in 1941 we got an excuse to get in it. Then they formed these escort destroyers. They started to make lots of them, and a bottleneck turned out to be a part of the drive called the “bull gear,”  which was about as big as this room and was tremendously good gear. There seemed to be only about one place in the country that could make them with satisfactory accuracy, but that was a bottleneck. So, then somebody asked, "can't you have an electric drive?" Of course, but what do you do? I am oversimplifying a little bit here, but they said it had to do everything the mechanical system would do. Then we said, "well, what does that mean?" Nobody knew at that time.

Nebeker:

So, the idea was that you have a variable speed motor so you wouldn't need gears?

Concordia:

It was a synchronous motor drive, but it went over a speed range. You didn't have to just always operate at sixty hertz. It had to operate over a range of frequencies, maybe from fifteen to sixty.

Nebeker:

Was this for destroyers?

Concordia:

Yes.

Nebeker:

That they would have some steam turbine?

Concordia:

Yes. They had the steam turbine to drive a generator but you got rid of the shaft and all the gearing. The motors also had to  be very lightweight. In order to hold these motors together, you had to make them as lightweight as possible, which means the reactances should go up and that it will still stand sudden changes. For example, if you turned the rudder hard over, you would get a sudden change in torque, and if it falls out [unintelligible passage], then you are sunk in a literal sense. We had to make something that would tie it together. That means an automatic way of controlling excitation machines and then the design specification of the voltage regulators to control the field and excitation in the generators. So, I got quite a bit into the control field.

Nebeker:

So were special generators required as well as special motors for these marine applications?

Concordia:

Yes. They had to be specially designed for that application. Special voltage regulators, too. And that required some development too, finding how to design the regulators to give the maximum effect, and how to hold them together. That took quite a lot of theoretical and analytical development.

There were several groups involved. We had a marine engineering application group, and I was nominally in this group. I worked wherever somebody asked me to. This was with the marine engineering group. I was working with them on the specification of it. Somebody else actually did the physical design of the generator and the motor.

Nebeker:

Someone else at GE?

Concordia:

There were design departments that built the motor and generator, and there was an application group that put the system together. I was working with that application group to specify these things.

Nebeker:

Had GE built these marine systems before?

Concordia:

No. They built marine systems but not this application. I really don't know how much data in this scope, no. But of course there had been electrical drives before to other machines.

Nebeker:

I think I remember reading about a battleship, some large capital ship that had an electric drive, I think in the 1930's.

Concordia:

Oh, yes. That's right. When you say in 1938, that was the beginning of the war as far as I was concerned although the United States wasn't in it yet, technically. We were making these escort destroyers before, actually, and tried to design the ships for that purpose. I think the old passenger ship, the Normandy, was one of the first ships with an electric drive. I am really reciting that history as a sign of the sort of things that come up. One thing led to another, and I worked in 1938 trying to figure out the specifications of the excitation system that would give the maximum extension of the stability limit. The interesting thing about that was, it was during the war and everything was sort of hush-hush. I published a paper on it in 1944 which is still cited. It shows theoretically how a lot of people had observed the phenomena of excitation systems. You could extend the limit, but this is the first place that showed a good analytical solution, that showed the design method.

Control Systems & 1965, 1977 Blackouts

Nebeker:

This was a more general analysis than simply for the system that you were working with?

Concordia:

Yes. Although the numbers we took were from this one particular case. Let me put it this way. This was done for a marine application, because we couldn't afford to make great big generators and great big motors. Back then the motors weighed a heck of a lot. Now, the electric utilities didn't pick this up right away because they didn't need it in their systems. Electric utilities grew up in many ways. Just for the purpose of discussion, we can talk about hydro systems and urban systems like the one in New York City. Lots of other cities had their own municipal systems, and other places where we had hydro units, we wanted to bring them in. Now, in most of the urban utility systems at that time, voltage was manually controlled. Everything was tied together. We still have electric generators right here in Manhattan where the load and the generators are close together. We can continually adjust the excitation. Now, when they started put in these hydro systems they sometimes had to have a long transmission line from the generator to the cities. How do you hold the voltage steady? You have to have an automatic system; you couldn't keep up with it manually. So automatic control grew up first, though not so much in this system

Then these old ideas that we developed in 1938 were not needed. At least they didn't think they were needed. This question of control is a general trend in the whole engineering field. You get more and more gadgets to control things. Engineers wanted to do things automatically although it tended put people out of work. I argued not to have them, and there was some resistance to automatic voltage control generators in the power stations. That resistance rose in a very peculiar way. They said they wanted to automatically adjust the excitation. Suppose the load was decreasing and the voltage was rising, but before the operators could adjust the voltage down, the automatic would do it right away. Therefore the automatic system would go right down, until there was practically no excitation at all. In order to sell voltage regulators we had to put in a lower limit device, which prevented it from going down too far. That incident never occurred until 1977. It occurred right here in New York. The 1965 blackout was all over the whole northeast and then we had the 1977 blackout which was mostly New York City.

You had to go through the sequence to see what happened. In the 1965 blackout, there was a failure of a relay. That wasn’t so hard to understand. Of course, there was a relay operator who was supposed to control it, but the real thing that had happened was that Ontario was connected to New York at Niagara Falls and at Messina. The first thing in the sequence was that they had several generators out of service in Ontario. Then that meant that New York was supplying a lot of power to Ontario. When they did that they really operated right into the relay operating zone of a backup relay, and it tripped the line. If the operators had known what the setting was, they wouldn't have done it. So what' was wrong here? There was a failure in communication between Ontario and New York City. They should have been saying, “we are in a vulnerable position, so you had better be in an alert position.” In those days people didn't realize they ought to do that. When you are in an interconnection arrangement, you have an obligation to your neighbor.

Then the next thing was that the operator didn't know what the relay setting was. People say the relay was set wrong. That may be, but that is no excuse for running into it, you see. We were exporting a lot of power, so then there was an excess of power and it had no place to go. It went on the New York City lines across New York state lines, and it overloaded those and they tripped out. Then it was a question of a shortage of power and the lines from Pennsylvania and New Jersey tripped out. Then the whole Northeast was deprived of power. If it had had an automatic load shedding scheme like it has now, we might have lost 20% of the load for twenty minutes instead of losing 100% of the load for three hours. That is the difference. The Pennsylvania people said, "We are fine because we split off from you fellows so that way we didn't get into any trouble." I was on the panel convened by Joe Swidler of the Federal Power Commission at the behest of Lyndon Johnson. One of our main recommendations was that everybody ought to have an automatic lower setting system; if the frequency drops, you set it lower. I am oversimplifying, but a year and a half later everybody still said, “yes, we agree but we don't like it.”

The Pennsylvania system happened later. Two things are interesting about that. One is that they split off and they got into trouble. Their head man said, “we had our 500 kv line. We have been saved.” But if they didn’t have that 500 kv line maybe the Northeast would have been saved, too. So you can't tell. Why didn't they have the load shedding a year and a half later? Because there were institutional problems. Their contacts were such that they had to have a universal agreement on the kind of system they wanted to. I agree that you have to have uniformity in that load shedding scheme, but it is not all that critical. It is more important to have it uniform. Since they could not agree they hadn't installed it yet.

Nebeker:

So did that 1967 blackout speed the process of agreeing on load shedding?

Concordia:

I hope so. I have no way of knowing exactly, but this was going on and everyone was doing it. It takes time, I understand that. But load shedding is not a panacea for everything. There are certain things to guard against, and that was illustrated by the 1977 blackout. In retrospect we recognize that it was more important to keep New York City alive than upstate. My house in Schenectady went without power for three and a half hours during the '65 blackout and it was not really bad. We have been out with ice storms longer than that, and it is no big deal. But the fact that New York was out was the reason Lyndon Johnson called Twin Rivers and set up all this monkey business. I shouldn't say monkey business just because I was one of the people wearing a monkey suit, but the point is that if New York had cut loose at the critical moment, we wouldn't have had all the fuss.

When New York City had trouble again in 1977, the shoe was on the other foot. I won't go into details on what happened; there were lots of reasons why it happened. One reason is because they got a lot of their power from outside. It still would have been good to have their steam generators right in Manhattan, but you can't do that in the modern age. You have to have it come from outside, but that cuts down your reliability, no question about it.

That supply is cut out and we should have load shedding, but this system is different from most systems. It's an urban system with a tremendous amount of underground cables and big capacitors. When you shed load, the voltage goes up. For reasons of system design and because of this tremendous capacitance, there was always a resonance up to 130% or something like that, a pretty high number. I am inventing this number because my memory fails me after so many years. Suppose it was 130%. All the machines got a number to decrease their excitation, but here is an example. Their biggest machine, called "Big Alice,” apparently had equipment that worked a little faster than some of the others. Their excitation went down into a region where the meter said that they lost excitation and the relay operator switched the machine off. Now, was that a cure? No. The voltage went up to 145. When you take a machine off the voltage goes up. It was a question of being near resonance. There are quite a lot of reactions between the machines because a lot of the machines are connected to a low voltage network. They go through two or three transformers up to 345 kv. Now, if you connected all your generators in a high voltage network, you wouldn't have so much of a problem.

An inductor in series with a capacitor can give you resonance. The interesting thing is that when they cut this machine off, it increased the reactance and put them closer to resonance, even though there were fewer machines to supply it. I believe that now if you take a load off you maybe apply a reactor to hold the voltage down and automatically control it. Something like that is necessary; it's not a very simple thing but it is something that you have to think about ahead of time.

Nebeker:

That is related to this voltage regulator, you are concerned with?

Concordia:

Yes. On the lower limit. They had a lower limit on that, but it was designed to prevent going down in normal operation. When you get a sudden shock, it can't prevent induced dips. There is an induced current in the field. It can suddenly drop lower on the machine. You get a sudden dip of field current. The fact that you don't tell it to slow up or don't give the signal has nothing to do with it. That is a technical point. Some engineers don't quite understand. They say they got a lower number, but that it didn't work. The lower number did work but it was not supposed to work for transients like that. It was supposed to just work in a steady state. It was put in for a different purpose. The other interesting point from the standpoint of electrical engineering is that the reasons for these three blackouts are rather different, but there is one underlying thread, and that is a lack of communication and a lack of understanding of what would happen.

There have been a lot of other blackouts. There was a blackout in San Antonio that didn't make the front pages here in the East, but there again someone took a rifle and shot the ground wire down and then it hit the line and got an equivalent of a very high resistance fault that lowered the voltage down to maybe 50%. Shedding load wouldn't have done any good in that case, because it was held down by this kind of fault. Well, why didn't that permanent fault trip? Because the primary relay didn't work. Then I say, "why didn't the backup relay work?" Well, because although they were independent electrically, they got a DC supply from a common battery and there was a switch that opened the supply to both of these things. After the backup, the next thing that went out was the big ring around the system and then the whole city went down. These are all different phenomena that can happen and that is really the sort of thing that I am engaged in.

Nebeker:

I know that you have been on a great many of these study committees of blackouts, but maybe we can return to following through your career. So this was in the late 1930's that you worked on marine systems and wrote that paper that you said was published in 1944?

Studies on Series Capacitors

Concordia:

Yes. Another paper that I think has become rather well-known now was written in 1937. We had a paper on the various problems with series capacitors.

Nebeker:

When you say, "we", who was it?

Concordia:

The whole electric utility industry really had a problem with series capacitors. The General Electric Company had installed mostly distribution systems, and there were cases after they put the capacitor in when there were many unexplained oscillations. We made quite a big study around 1937. I claim that it was one of the first analyses of the problems that arise with capacitors put in a series in a line. That was in distribution systems. What is interesting from a commercial standpoint is that there were many cases like this where the General Electric Company and the other companies wouldn't sell you a series capacitor for your voltage problems unless you made a systems study to find out if there are any problems. In that case it just sort of killed the whole business right away because it cost more to make the study than that little job was worth.

Nebeker:

How were these studies carried out? Was it a paper and pencil analysis?

Concordia:

It was done in part by instruments, but mostly by pencil and paper or a desk calculator. One of the first cases came into this kind of distribution problem. A mine board out on the West Coast had a big induction motor in the mine. When it started, the voltage dipped in the series capacitor. They killed the voltage dip, but after the motor came up to speed they still had a little flicker in the electric lights. I think it was about twelve hertz, which was near to what you can easily see. I think eight hertz is about maximum you can have. Somebody out in the district called us up at headquarters asked my boss, Dave Jones, if he could send somebody out here to cure their problem. Dave asked me if I wanted to go out and help. I said no. I knew what induction dips looked like. I said I would go downstairs, stay here and see if I can understand it." I spent night and day there for several days working with a calculator to figure out the reasons why you get an instability with a series capacitor. You could explain it very simply that way, but I couldn't have found that out by staring at the motor.

Nebeker:

Were you using the calculator to find numerical solutions to equations that described the problem?

Concordia:

Well, the first thing was to write down the proper equations. The second thing was to solve them. Now why did I use the calculator instead of the slide rule? You might say that it is quicker to use the slide rule, but it may not be as accurate. That is not the point, and we found that out on other occasions. If you sit down and use a slide rule for a problem, it's fine, but if you use it all day long, you just go blind. You make the fix but everything's bad. But if you use a calculator and relax, you could do it until 2:00 in the morning. I was working too hard and I hadn't seen anybody for several hours, so when somebody walked in to the shop and I nearly jumped ten feet in the air. It was the funniest thing in the world.

Nebeker:

It was an experience.

Network Analyzers and Computing

Concordia:

It was. I took a simple case of a single machine and took it to the level of a system. You couldn't analyze a whole system without doing this. Nothing that would solve this problem in that time. We also had an old mechanical differential analyzer that would solve differential equations.

Nebeker:

Vannevar Bush developed it at MIT.

Concordia:

Yes. They had it at MIT. He called it something else and then we had one that was fourteen integrals or something like that, which was a large number in those days. He had a half-baked design that was part electrical and part mechanical. But anyway we had a purely mechanical design, although we didn't invent it. It was actually invented at MIT and the Moore School of the University of Pennsylvania, which was where Eckert and Mauchly were. They used a mechanical analyzer. It couldn't be used very well for this problem I am talking about, but you mentioned covering transient phenomena and so on. We built one of our own, I think. We used to go down to the Moore School all the time to solve control problems and various problems involving solving differential, not linear, equations. It was a quick way but not terribly accurate. But then during World War II, it turned out that thing had been made by the WPA or something. They had an agreement that at Aberdeen, the army could use it for ballistic calculations. When the war came, it was no longer available to us so we made one of our own.

Nebeker:

Well, I had heard that Bush's differential analyzer was used for studying power systems.

Concordia:

Well, yes, in a very limited way, though. It was very limited because it had only six integrators, which is a very small number. The systems we study now have 6,000 buses and 2,000 generators and you could figure out probably six orders to each generator. You have a 12,000 order of equation, if you tried to write it all out. The only way the thing allows you to solve it through what you might call the spareness in the mathematical sense. The network was connected in a hundred ways, but was only connected in a few ways to its neighbors, so that helped out in the solution. Also at MIT they had what we later called a "network calculator" or "network analyzer" too, which was an electrical device used for network problems. But then again, it had at most twelve generators. It wouldn't have been suitable for this self-excitation problem I told them about.

Nebeker:

But there in the late 1930's at GE, you had a network analyzer?

Concordia:

Yes, and before that we had what they called a DC network analyzer, which connected the resistance to solve short circuit problems and so on. This was a sort of a simulator of the steady state operation of a network, but it was used to solve dynamic problems. It was used by solving the problems step by step numerically, just to say you knew how to do it. You calculated the conditions of each step on the network analyzer. So you set the problem up and then give it the disturbance and then figured how much you should go and move every generator. Then you go back and read it again and go back and forth, but there was no device to do the differential equations that went from one step to another. When they changed over to doing it digitally, the whole thing was done in one fell swoop. Also it was done with more accuracy and it took more things into account. Sometimes I think they take too much into account, because when something happens there are only a few things involved, really. It doesn't matter whether there was a million generators or seven; it might matter whether there were seven or four or five, but not whether there were seven or a million. People hate to miss anything. Today, all the utilities are connected together or at least the whole eastern part of the country and the whole western part are all connected together. If you make a study of a disturbance in your own system, trying to follow the swinging of all the generators and the changes of voltage and so on, you discover that neighboring systems have a great influence on the behavior. So you had to represent their system to a degree. Then if something goes wrong you point your finger at the next guy but then he could say I didn't model the system properly. When you make links, there tends to be an over-refined representation, if you know what I mean. Everyone should share.

Nebeker:

In other words, if you have the whole thing simulated on a computer, it is harder to understand what's causing problems?

Concordia:

It is a question of how far abroad you have to go. That's a question that has never had a black and white answer. Things fade out into the distance. Something a thousand miles away may be more important than something ten miles away.

Nebeker:

I see. With the older style of analyzing, you are more likely to understand what's going on?

Concordia:

It makes it hard to understand what's going on, of course, that is quite right. On the other hand, if you learn something from everything you do, you can learn something about what you ought to do when you try to get the essential contribution of your system or some contribution from the other system. You may find that you even disturb or overload something when you make an equivalent system and simplify it. You tacitly assume that nothing is going to happen over there. No relays are going to open a line or trip a generator. There have been cases where you made a study and got your answer and everybody is happy, but then when it happens in real life, something different happens. Because a relay or a part that you use as an equivalent may have tripped. The real problems now are still problems of communication.

Nebeker:

I would imagine that the problems of calculation are much smaller now that you have computers

AIEE Computing & Science Committees

Concordia:

You have calculating power, but things are just the same because the calculator has to deal with more things. It's Parkinson's law. You take more in effect. Back in 1961-1962, I won a Lamme Medal from the AIEE. It was the last meeting of the AIEE before the merger, in a meeting in Denver. At that time, they had the recipient give a talk, and somebody asked me a question. I still have the speech, and frankly it sounds very up to date. Among other things, I said don't let the vast increase in computing power fool you. I think there is a strong tendency to do that, and the reason I remember the incident is that the question was asked by somebody in the Signal.

In the article in their magazine, a fellow quoted that old saying in the news way back in 1962. Of course, when I said computing power, it was growing like mad. I was the first chairman of the very first committee of computing devices of the old AIEE. I was a member of the Basic Science Committee of the AIEE in the 1940s. People were talking about the new digital computers. So they formed a sub-committee in 1946 on large-scale computing devices, as they called them. They were not so large by present standards. I was chairman of that, and you know I had trouble finding members for this subcommittee.

Nebeker:

This was 1946.

Concordia:

I found fellows from Princeton, Harvard, IBM and Bell Labs. Sam Williams in Bell Labs; John McPherson, who was a vice president of engineering at IBM, and Ed Harder from Westinghouse. So I looked around and dug them up, so to speak. Everett Lee, who was the president of AIEE at that time, said that it was an important thing and that there would be a committee. So we made a committee after one year, and I was chairman for two years. We had our first session based on that at the old building on 39th Street. We had the auditorium there, and I was the presiding officer, of course, and we got Howard Aiken from Harvard and Sam Williams.

We got a guy from Princeton, and we got four or five speakers. That was really the first session of AIEE on computer devices. That was on computing devices, not on applications. I remember it was Howard Aiken because he had slides and he set up his own projector in the aisle. Then the fire department came along and said, "You can't have anything in the aisle. You have to use the projector there." He had a 2,000 watt light or something like that and said, "I am not going to put my slides up there; they are the only ones in the world." We had a big hassle there. He almost stormed out but I said, "all right. Don't use the slides." So he didn't have his slides but he did his talk anyway. The next year we also had a small presentation on applications. It was harder to find people for that. Everybody wanted to talk about what was coming and what was new, or about what they have been doing to develop computers. But it wasn't as interesting to talk about the applications.

Nebeker:

I was interested to see on one of the listings of your activities that you were in that basic science group of AIEE. It caught my eye because I know Ernst Weber was involved in that group.

Concordia:

That's right. He and I were on several committees together. I was on an ad hoc committee that was supposed to redesign the selection of Fellows. The chairman was Jack Morton. Jack Morton was shot during a strike somewhere before we finished our report. He was a very interesting fellow. But we wrote a set of recommendations and I think some of them have been followed in the selection of Fellows. We had arguments about it, because in the AIEE people were very careful about whom they selected and they didn't select anybody unless they were pretty sure they were qualified. We didn't turn down very many. A board of examiners met once a month and talked about everything. I was the vice chairman and we could change every nine years. One thing I lost in the merger was this position. I would have been Chairman but then they combined it with this Fellows Committee that I was on for three more years. Actually, they were supposed to change after two years, but then the other fellow that came after me got sick or something, so I was on it for three years. But the IRE had a completely different philosophy. There they sent in everybody and you had three hundred people for selection and you had to select two of them. I am not sure if it is better or not.

Nebeker:

So the Fellows Committee formed at the time of the merger came to some agreement about procedure.

Concordia:

Well, we had to think of a procedure, of course, and nobody was satisfied with what was being done. A few years after I was off the committee, around 1970, they formed an ad hoc committee with Ernst Weber, Jack Morton, me, and a few other people. We came out with our system of sort of going through the group and cutting it down. Jack Morton said the way to do it was to have the societies. They get people selected and knock off half of them and then go to the next group and knock out half of them and so on. I think it is a really good system. I went off in 1966. When Morton died, no one else took a break in the report and so on. It was a couple of years before they were cut.

Superchargers & Aerodynamic Engineering

Nebeker:

If we return to World War II, are there other projects you can think of that you were involved with in that time?

Concordia:

Well, yes. Again a mechanical problem. At that time, they were using propeller planes with supercharged engines. In fact, GE used it in some of their ads, they show Moss Lynn  going to the top of one of those western mountainous areas at the high altitude. This supercharger was developed in World War I. A million of the things used in World War II were developed in World War I. By the time they got them ready, the war was over. Then they were on ice for years. Submarine noise abatement was another one. And then there was the supercharger. They began work on the superchargers in Lynn and for four or five years during the war I worked four days a week in Schenectady and two days in Lynn, when I wasn't traveling to some other place. I worked six days a week for many years. Over there my job was working on the development of a better supercharger itself.

Nebeker:

Have you been involved with that kind of engineering all along?

Concordia:

Well, yes. That's what I was doing.

Nebeker:

Earlier in the 1930's had you been doing that kind of engineering?

Concordia:

Not for GE. But I think I know something about it.

Nebeker:

I noticed that you have been a member of ASME.

Concordia:

Oh, yes. I joined that just a little while after the war ended. I did work on ship propulsion and that kind of thing and even wrote a paper for the American Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. I remember it was the 60th anniversary of that organization, and I went to the banquet. On the platform there were a lot of famous people, including William Durant, the famous aeronautical engineer who had worked on wind tunnels. At Cornell he became famous and then he retired and went to Stanford worked on wind tunnels. He was one of the first people to develop the techniques of wind tunnels. He was eighty-six years old; I'll never see this old guffer again.

After that he wrote for the NACA a three or four volume textbook on aerodynamics. So he had three successful careers. He finally died at 100 years old or so. I had not really worked specifically on aerodynamic calculations, although I had worked on calculations in general. Maybe I had done something for the turbine department because before we had our mechanical differential analyzer, we started to use the one down at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering. We were fascinated, or at least we were impressed, by the computing power and saw we could use it for a lot of problems. We started to advertise around the company that we needed to do these problems. I actually went down to the Moore School for several years before we had our own differential analyzer on problems that arose in many departments of the country. A lot of them were mechanical problems and many were aerodynamic problems.

Nebeker:

So you were involved with these through the calculators?

Concordia:

Because I was familiar with that machine. I know things about, it all right. I went there and spent several weeks in Philadelphia. I worked for several years actually and we had a patent on a refined and improved supercharger blade. But then the next problem, since one thing leads to another, was how to control it. They wanted a control to adjust the pressure, but they couldn't do it, it wasn't stable and so they used the exhaust flow to control the supercharger. From a stability standpoint it wasn't worthwhile. So again a fellow said to me, "you are a mathematician; you can solve this problem." The biggest problem in any of these analytical jobs I have taken is not solving the equations. You sit down and think you understand how it works and you can write the equations. That's the simplest thing. But then what are the parameters? So getting the data is like pulling teeth, because the things you need to know are things they never designed and never thought about, like how to control the stability and performance of this thing. So the technique that I found was to go and get my own number. Then they said that was wrong.

Nebeker:

I see.

Concordia:

We converged on the right number, like one of the properties and the exhaust properties and so on. But they didn't understand and they said, "You can solve the problem because you know the equations." But knowing the equations is not enough to do it. You have to know the parameters and I still insist that finding the parameters is a lot harder than understanding the physical problem. Well, I did a lot of work on the control of those things. I don't know whether anything was written. A lot of people will refer in my case to papers that were written and so on, but I have been a consulting engineer all my life, practically. The biggest contribution I made was talking to somebody and then having them go out and do it. I am quite convinced of that. My papers were the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

Nebeker:

We have had many people mention your help.

Concordia:

One thing that I have learned as a consulting engineer is not to worry about it; not to work on the last problem. If somebody comes in and talks to you for an hour and then goes off, you forget it and give your full attention to the next fellow that comes in. You know that if something goes wrong, he will call back and if you never hear from him again, you know everything went right. Sometimes after two years, someone would call you back. It turns out usually in that case that they had changed some parameters. When I have been asked to work something out mathematically at General Electric Company and was getting paid a salary no matter what I did, then I never just answered questions. I always did what they now call a “sensitivity analysis." I found by bitter experience that things were never what the fellow who asked the question thought they were. If they were, if this was in a conceptual stage, when they finally got around to designing it they changed some of these things.

Nebeker:

Was it common at that time to do that kind of a sensitivity analysis?

Concordia:

I didn't know, and I didn't care. I just did it. It is not so common now because if I am in a consulting engineering firm, I don't have time. I am not earning my living that way, so it doesn't matter to me whether you hire me or not. But when a man is in the business, everything he does is by contract and he has to spell out what he is going to do and then charge a low enough price so he'll get the job. He can't do anything except what he said he do. Consequently a lot of my consulting work has not been for utilities directly. Most is for foreign utilities, say in Asia or South America, but not for domestic utilities. I've mostly been hired by a consulting engineering firm who is doing a job for a utility or something. In that case the first thing I do is start asking questions. What happens if you do this at any point? You can't investigate that because we haven't agreed to do it.

Nebeker:

I see.

Concordia:

You never get the job if you want to do all the things that you think are really necessary to cover it. Somebody else will promise something simpler and get it.

Retirement and Consulting Work

Nebeker:

How long was it that you worked for GE? I see until 1973.

Concordia:

Well, 47 years, minus a couple of months. I started in July and I retired at the end of June, so that was a couple weeks short of forty-seven years. Not that many people can work that long now because you can't. Of course nobody can actually make it to 50 years because of the mandatory retirement age. In New York State you couldn't really work until you were 16, so you might work for once company for 49 years. Now of course the federal law has changed so you can stay as long as you want. But in my view that is a mistake. If you are 65 years old and enjoying your job that's a bad sign. You are comfortable and you never are going to be the president of the company. You have on your old slippers and you have colleagues that respect you and compliment you and think that you are wonderful. If you are forced to quit at sixty-five, you could always continue to work with plenty of opportunity. I have seen this happen to other people. They lose ten years, I mean they become younger, going through something new and going out and facing people they have never heard of before. So, when I retired I was offered several options and one was to keep an office there. But I said, "No. I don't want to do that, I want to get out."

I had a good friend, Lee Kilgore at Westinghouse, and he is older than I am. He did that at Westinghouse. I told him and his colleagues they were doing him an injustice that way. Because now he is there still doing things for Westinghouse and I think he would have been better off, as I think that I have been better off. I have worked with GE almost every year since I retired until maybe a year ago.

People asked me, "Don't you like GE any more? Why don't you want to go back there?" Because I have seen people who are not under contract to GE retire. Then the old man comes around and visits and he may give advice to the young fellows. They don't want that old fuddy-duddy to give them advice, they want to do it their own way. So, I resolved really to never go back unless they paid me to go back. I think that that's the way it should operate.

Nebeker:

So when you retired in 1973, did you immediately start doing consulting work?

Concordia:

Yes. Before I retired they made a contract with me to hire me for consulting for a certain limited amount. So for six months after I retired, I didn't come up and work for GE on any regular basis but I was available on call and I did a little work for them. In fact, doing my job with General Electric, they had lent me out. One example was this DC Pacific Coast Intertie. For several years I went out there once a month and sat in on a sort of advisory committee. I was paid by the General Electric Company and they paid the General Electric Company for my services. It was the same when Hydro Quebec was making the James Bay hydro project in Quebec. I worked for them several years. Then I retired and told them, "you know, it hasn't been me that was working for you, it's been the General Electric Company. Now it is up to you. What do you want to do?" They said, "what do you want?" They decided to continue. I told the General Electric Company, "well, it's your job and I don't want to go and take business from you. Can I do it?" They said that was fine. So I said "OK" and told them that my fee would be different. They would have gotten scared of that; it had to be lower. It is lower because when I worked for General Electric Company and was hired by those people, I could come back to the office and I would have experts on specifics down the hall there. I could ask them questions. I had a secretarial service and all kinds of things. I said, "you are going to have to be my secretary too, and if I write a report I'll give it to one of your secretaries to type." So I said I wouldn't charge very much. I worked five or ten years for that and I worked about fifteen years total.

Then the next fellow to call me was Lee Kilgore, that's when his name popped up. He asked if I could help them out. They were being sued by somebody. Somebody got injured or killed in a distribution vault or something like that, with the switches or circuit breakers. He made a reconnection, and I think he may have been killed. So here I was. This was for a competitor to GE. I checked back with our lawyer and he said that was all right. I told him what the job was, something of interest to all of the manufacturers and so they said "OK." So then I told Lee, that if I think Westinghouse is to blame, I was going to say so. He said that they would want to know. You see, that was his attitude at Westinghouse, which was very complimentary to them. Sure enough, I did that job for him, and it never came to trial. The event was sort of interesting, and I wrote my explanation of what happened. In the meantime the plaintiff had gotten the consulting engineer, a college professor, to write an explanation which I thought was all wrong. I wrote a rebuttal, and believe it or not that fellow agreed that my explanation was right. Well, that sort of undercut them and so he was an honest man too, you see. Anyway, it turned out that the insurance company was paying the bill and they got me all ready to go down to Atlantic City to trial and then about 11:00 the night before a fellow called me and said that they had settled it out of court. They settled it out of court because since the fellow was killed, there would be a lot of sympathy from the jury and it might make it a precedent, which would make a third party responsibility. So he said that they were very happy and had settled it for about one-fiftieth of what we might have had to pay. He said, "Send us a big bill." That was my first outside job and it was a very rewarding one.

Nebeker:

That was a nice thing to hear.

Concordia:

He was very happy with the consequences.

Nebeker:

You liked this consulting career?

Concordia:

Yes. It isn't really my new career. I do it only a small percentage of the time. It's of two natures. Either working for a consulting engineering firm in the United States or working for utilities. Outside of the country, however, I had a very loose tie with power in Taiwan but I had gone there only a few times. Then the other one was called "China Lake Power" which is not in China but in Hong Kong, and that association lasted for almost twenty years. But again, it was not a regular thing.

Changes in Electric Utility Business

Nebeker:

We only got to the 1940s or 1950s in the story of your career. What stands out when you look back on the 1950s and 1960s, the work that you were doing?

Concordia:

Well, it's hard to say that. For example, I could say the electric utility business has changed a lot. Interconnection grew like wildfire in the 1960s and new problems came up. So the sort of problems I had to tackle at GE changed. They got more and more complex, and I got more and more concerned with control. Because of the way power systems and all kinds of industrial things have gone, there are more controls now. There have been problems of one control interfering with another, which is a new kind of problem. Then it got worse and worse as things got more and more and more connected. CIGRE had started in 1918, but that was interrupted by the war. After the war it started again and I got involved with it around. So I got involved and got more and more acquainted with a lot of power system engineers and problems of other power systems in other parts of the world. If you read the latest issues of Spectrum, you see a little paragraph on energy and on communications and electronics and on other things. The thing that shocked me was that if you read this thing about power and energy, you see there is not a single technical worry in it, really. It was all about the problems they've been having with deregulation — open access, non-utility generation, competition, and the process of ending the vertical integration of generation, transmission and distribution. It discusses the legal problems that have come about.

The only technical part was in a little box written by Engarani at EPRI. He's in charge of it at the moment. He used to be on the West Coast and he works for EPRI now as manager of systems studies. But he wrote a little article which pointed out some of the new technical developments, but those are not the principal concerns. They should be more concerned with the government helping them out, or serving the public through more competition. The problem is that when you calculate the reliability it involves all three, always. The same thing is true with the telephone to a certain extent, and some people say that the telephone system now is as reliable now as it was when it was and AT&T monopoly.

I sort of agree with that. These sorts of conditions affected my work. I had the same job and like I say, I worked in a lot of different departments. It seems to be a sort of continual development, although each person thinks that his era is the era of change and that everything is new. In 1936, when I first joined the central station group, my boss Dave Jones said the peak load in the United States was growing at 7% a year, and it was doubling every ten years. He said, "How long can it keep up?" He suggested calculating some of that growth curve. He thought you could calculate the life cycle of these things. So in 1936 I sat down and calculated such a curve. The only thing I assumed was that it would come to an end, I didn't assume anything else. But I took the data we had in 1936 on the peak load and tried to fit the curve to it. I predicted that it would show a leveling off at 2025. That was ninety years in the future; it seemed like a long time. I didn't think anything more about it until 1966, about thirty years later another of my colleagues asked me the same question. So, I went back and did the same thing over again. I had twenty times the data. Everybody was keeping track of more in the electrical world. The EIA and the Federal Power commission and so on were all keeping track of this. But then I got the same answer. You might say now that's uncomfortably close.

Nebeker:

Did you write any of this out there?

Concordia:

I don't have the calculations yet. I don't remember the numbers. I remember the year because it was so striking. Because the first thing I said in the original was that this is a very uncertain calculation, so I already did my sensitivity analysis. I could change the magnitude of the low quite a little bit, but I couldn't change the year.

Nebeker:

I see. It was still leveling off around the same year?

Nuclear Power

Concordia:

Yes. It is something to think about because you will get to see it. You see this hardening. You see, for example, cutting our throat in the nuclear power area. We are not doing what we should do. If you look at the same article you'll see a very disheartening list of what the National Science Foundation's budget is going to be for 1994. They are going to cut back drastically the work on nuclear power. They are going to increase solar power and increase conservation efforts, a lot more on that and a lot more on others. But to me that is completely wrong. It isn't the question of research on nuclear power. If you look at the record, it is just as safe as any other kind. If you look at the number of people, the number of accidents and compare it to coal for example, you find that there are more people killed in a coal mine but that only makes page ten of the paper. When a guy dies from a nuclear accident or if he dies going to the moon, that gets on page one.

Nebeker:

Well, there is the example of France.

Concordia:

That's right; but that is the only example. I have told the utilities here: "You don't need technical research; what you need is research on public relations." I have been to France and am very familiar with the fact that the EDF has the respect of the general man of the street. If I said I am doing something for Con Ed here, they would say "get out," but that's just the difference in the way people look at it.

Nebeker:

Well, the French also have a very good record in it, and I think the people respect that.

Concordia:

Yes. We have a very good record here, too. But the reason the costs are up is really the regulation. I did some work for TVA, and TVA was in a situation where they had about nine generators. All of them were shut down for one reason or another. The interesting thing was that they shut them down because of the rules. They saw something and shut it down to inspect it. Well, once you shut it down somebody knows. When you get ready to come back they write a letter about something they ought to look into. After a while you get to the point where you fix that up and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says you are okay to start up in five days. On the fourth day another letter comes in. You can't help but think that something fishy is going on there, and this happened more than once. You get this act that was supposed to get on in two weeks in two years later, so that is one reason why the record is not good, you see. I don't blame it on the fact that a lot of people don't like it. My principal work for them was the shutdown and restarting of the emergency power equipment. It was sort of shocking for a technical engineer to see how this is stymied by politics. I just can't help but believe that there is some organized way of finding out what is going on in a company and taking action right at the last minute.

The other interesting thing that happened in the case of consulting, but not with nuclear power, was the Cornwall plant on the Hudson River, which is a pumped storage plant. This was objected to and then the plaintiffs lost the case. Then another new point was brought up and the plaintiff lost the case and this went on for fourteen years. You knew that there was no chance of starting it again. This is the sort of situation we are in, so as a technical engineer and consultant on the dynamics of power systems in the developing countries in Africa and Asia and South America, I find that they're way back on the curve. There they are just worrying about getting enough energy and they get it by hook or crook. We are up to the point where everything we do you hear about the environmental impact. If people had known about the carcinogenic effect of wood smoke, they would have objected to fire in the first place. Cooking your food is of the leading causes of cancer. If you didn't do it, you have botulism, but the cancer is what we worry about; we don't worry about the other because it takes it up on cooking. When electricity was first coming up, the gas people said the same thing. The electric people said that gas was dangerous and the gas people said that the electric power was dangerous. Even today people are killed by gas explosions and by electrical shock. When steam power first came out, a lot of boilers exploded and many people were killed before the boiler code was initiated. When we had nuclear power we planned on the prospect of somebody being killed. It is a different philosophy, that desire to be safe. We want to go to the moon but if we lose seven people we're shocked. When we wanted to explore the world, we sent Columbus around. We lost thousands of people, but everybody now thinks it was worthwhile. We don't find people who say we shouldn't have done it. There is a completely different spirit. Things were done in a spirit of adventure. My only pessimistic view of the future is that the young people except you and I are more concerned with safety than we are.

Nebeker:

The sad thing is that people have very skewed views of risk?

Concordia:

That has been written about so much. You see, with carcinogens, all the additives are restricted, but if you look around, the statement is that pepper is the most carcinogenic thing we could possibly have!

Nebeker:

Thank you very much for the interview.