Stephen J. (Steve) Wright
Bonneville Power Administration
905 N.E. 11th Avenue
Portland, OR 97232
June 14, 2009
Douglas Albright – President
Actuation Test Equipment Company
3393 Eddie Road
Winnebago, Illinois 61088
This letter is to inform you of a second opportunity that was missed by BPA. I have a long history with BPA that dates back to 1985. At that time, I worked for Woodward Governor Company, which provided the governors and Kaplan blade control equipment for the majority of the USACE powerplants in FCRPS. My job at Woodward was to design and build test equipment for Woodward aircraft fuel system products, one of which was a 3-D cam mapping software program for gas turbine engine fuel controls.
In 1985, I adapted this aircraft fuel control 3-D cam mapping test system for use on Kaplan hydroelectric turbines, creating the automatic Index Test Box (ITB) that automatically collects data for use in determining the optimum blade to gate angle for Kaplan turbines. U.S. Patent# 4,794,544 was awarded to me for this invention.
In 1987 Doug Seely and Lee Sheldon of BPA purchased the first production unit of the ITB, and demonstrated it on a turbine at PGE-PHP-2 powerhouse in Portland Oregon. This test was deemed a success, and as a result BPA offered to purchase ITB’s and give them to USACE for use on all 113 Kaplan turbines in FCRPS. However, instead of accepting this gift, USACE decided to build their own automated index-testing device.
In 1990, a USACE report presented test data results from their automated index-testing device to Mr. Sheldon of BPA for analysis. Mr. Sheldon tried to put a positive spin on it, but the data was nonsense - the Corps’ index testing device was a failure. Instead of buying the successfully demonstrated Index Test Box from Woodward, USACE decided to cover up this failure and do nothing to improve the optimization of their Kaplan turbines.
In 2003, Woodward’s patent expired, so USACE approached me (because my name is on the patent as the inventor) to make them another Index Test Box. After a long difficult negotiation, we agreed on a deal that would sell one ITB to HDC, and if it worked they would buy 112 more for all of the turbines in FCRPS.
In December 2005 and February 2006 field tests, the ITB was evaluated in “Proof of Concept” tests by USACE. According to presentations made to BPA’s HOT committee by USACE HDC personnel (Rod Wittinger, HDC’s senior mechanical engineer, Lee Sheldon, hydropower engineer and index testing specialist and Dan Ramirez, HDC’s turbine test engineer), the ITB was successful, and these Corps personnel that worked with me on the project wanted to buy two more. They were over-ruled by others from USACE with more clout, so instead of buying the proven, workable solution that BPA had paid over $400,000 for, USACE embarked on a misguided project to replicate it using a more favored contractor, Automated Control Systems Incorporated (ACSI), again, funded at BPA expense.
Initially HDC tried to wrest the technology (software source code) away from me, but were blocked because I had a Copyright on the source code that proved I wrote the code prior to engaging in the contractual relationship with USACE HDC; the software was not written at Government expense so they couldn’t confiscate it. Next, HDC tried to engage ACSI as a contractor to replicate my ITB, but my complaints to DOE IG and a subsequent IG investigation blocked this. Finally, HDC simply presented the data graphs that I created with my ITB to the HOT, falsely claiming that the graphs were the work-product of HDC personnel in order to request more BPA funding to continue HDC’s development work on HDC’s non-existent automatic index testing device, then upon receiving this funding set about hastily creating such a device, renamed the Gate Blade Optimizer (GBO).
BPA’s HOT committee invested over $1.5 million on HDC’s GBO project, which was conducted by HDC personnel and USACE rehired annuitants. According to BPA HOT committee’s meeting minutes from October 2008 (acquired under Freedom of Information Act) this project failed to make anything workable. Also in this meeting there was a false claim that two additional solicitations for ITB were issued, FOIA requests to USACE showed this claim to be untrue. There have been no HOT meetings since October 2008, so I can only surmise no progress has been made on an automatic index-testing device for FCRPS Kaplan turbines, and your money is just "down the river."
So for a second time, BPA has procured a workable solution for optimizing the 113 Kaplan turbines in FCRPS from the private sector, but have been thwarted by greed and favoritism by government employees who preferred to purchase this equipment from their friends. Total expense to BPA has been close to $2 million this time - and over $250,000 in 1989 - with nothing to show for it but failure and wasted taxpayer’s money.
I'm writing to you now because HDC has allowed the 5-year contract with Actuation Test Equipment company for proven index testing technology to expire without buying anything while they squandered your money on self-serving misadventures, and from the evaluation paperwork I received from USACE contracting last week, HDC is attempting to shift the onus for this failure onto me. I vehemently do not concur with HDC’s evaluation, and feel it proper to let BPA (you) know what happened with the taxpayer’s (your) money. Attached please find the ACASS Federal Acquisition Regulations evaluation prepared by HDC and my response to this organizational whitewash.
Actuation Test Equipment Company
Attachment: ACASS contractor evaluation - please scroll down to page 6 where the evaluations start to bypass the contracting gobbledygook.
Mark Jones, Manager, Federal Hydropower Projects
Thomas Murphy, Project representative
DOE IG Hotline
Editorial staff at the Oregonian