Equipment Loan champion retires

Western is pleased to recognize Darrel Iverson of the University of North Dakota You are leaving Western's site. as a pioneer in the use of infrared, or IR, thermography in the early detection and prevention of electric power system problems.

University of North Dakota Electrician Darrel Iverson shows off the Competitive Edge award he received from Western's Energy Services in 2003. Iverson is retiring in January.
University of North Dakota Electrician Darrel Iverson shows off the Competitive Edge award he received from Western’s Energy Services in 2003. Iverson is retiring in January.

First in line
Iverson, who retires in January as an electrician with UND Facilities Management, began using the IR cameras at the university nearly three decades ago to improve the reliability of its power distribution system. Customer Service Representative Jim Bach of Western’s Upper Great Plains regional office first introduced Iverson to the Equipment Loan Program in 1986. “The first time we saw an IR camera, we weren’t sure what to do with it,” recalled Iverson. “Then Western held a training class in Sioux City, Iowa.”

The facilities electrician quickly recognized the technology’s potential and became a member of the “First Dozen” club—customers who were among the first to borrow from the Equipment Loan Program. “As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to an electrical system, the IR camera is a godsend,” Iverson declared. “If you are not doing IR inspections, you are not taking care of your system.”

Problem solver
Iverson continued to keep up with the changing technology, from early cameras that filled two large suitcase-sized shipping boxes with necessary accessories to today’s thumb-sized cameras that attach to smart phones.

Throughout the years, each time Iverson borrowed a cameras from Western, he kept refining his inspection technique to protect his crew and the equipment. “One of the great things about the Equipment Loan Program is that every time Western got a new camera, I got to learn about new technology and share that with coworkers,” he said.

Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann recalled one particularly ingenious solution to inspecting the confined spaces of underground vaults and tunnels. “Checking electrical distribution systems in those places is potentially hazardous for workers because of the dangers of toxic fumes, flooding or fires,” said Hoffmann.

Iverson created a version of a bucket camera by mounting an infrared camera with a remote control inside a bucket with a hole in it for the lens. After testing the spaces to be inspected for toxic fumes that could cause an explosion, the inspector lowered the camera into the space by a rope tied to the bucket handle. The improvised rigging allowed the inspector to take pictures of vaults and tunnels without having to physically enter them.

“Darrel told me once that he tied the other end of the rope around his back and shoulder. If he accidently dropped the camera into the vault, he wanted the rope to pull him in with it,” said Hoffmann. “That way, he wouldn’t have to explain to us how he smashed our camera.”

Iverson often provided Energy Services with copies of reports on potential problems to share with other Western customers so that they could learn from his experiences. His desire to educate led him to persuade the university to sponsor one of Western’s infrared training workshops in Grand Forks in 2011. The utility representatives who attended the workshop learned a great deal about the uses of IR cameras and inspection techniques from Iverson’s extensive experience.

In 2003, the Energy Services program recognized his dedication with Western’s Competitive Edge award for commitment to specific energy-efficiency or renewable energy projects or programs.

Iverson has worked with many Equipment Loan managers—Gary Hoffmann, Rich Burnkrant, Jim Bach—and, “They have all been great to work with,” he said.

The Energy Services staff feels the same way about Iverson. He was a true ambassador for the Energy Services program and for best practices in energy use. We have enjoyed working with him and learning from him with each loan. Darrel Iverson is the kind of person who makes us look forward to doing our jobs every day.