Dan Ward: 'Have a Passion'

June 2, 2011
Ward, a principal engineer with Dominion Virginia Power, teaches courses on power distribution, reliability, surge protection and engineering economics.

“Canned computer programs” have been a boon to Dan Ward’s courses. “Many people don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes in their analytical tools, and I try to help them make sense of it and focus on the fundamentals in my teaching.”

Ward, a principal engineer with Dominion Virginia Power, teaches courses on power distribution, reliability, surge protection and engineering economics.

“I love my work and a lot of what I work on gets recycled as lessons learned in my course material,” Ward said. “The basics can get pretty dry unless you include some real-life examples.”

He will be presenting a session called The Overvoltage Protector: A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem at the Southeastern Electrical Exchange Conference and Trade Show on Thursday, June 30, in Orlando, Florida. The session will cover the Winning Project for SEE’s 2011 Industry Excellence Awards Program in the Distribution Category. Dominion pioneered the use of polymer housed station-class arresters on the lower voltage circuit to limit the resulting overvoltage. During a sustained overvoltage, the arrester shorts out the lower circuit to protect utility equipment and customer appliances. Field trials for the overvoltage protectors have been overwhelmingly successful.

Ward’s path to Dominion and distribution engineering has come as a result of what he found interesting and for which he soon found a passion. “In my first year with GE, I learned of their electric utility application engineering training program. I had an engineering degree with no power background and this program sounded pretty interesting. The power courses that I took were terrific. Taught by top notch instructors, they soon got me hooked.” With training assignments in generation, transmission and distribution, he was ready for a field application engineering assignment in Richmond focusing on transmission and distribution.

Returning to a distribution systems engineering group in Schenectady, he began to do courses and presentations on a variety of distribution topics like distribution transformers and capacitors. “I remember making a presentation in Oakland in the early 70s. In the middle of my talk, an earthquake occurred. Returning a year later, another of my presentations wound up with the same result. I wasn’t invited back the following year.”

He left GE in 1988 to join Virginia Power where he got involved with reliability work, power quality investigations and quite a bit of forensic work on equipment failures. He also managed the distribution research program. “The work was quite varied and, since I was one of the few engineers with a systems background, I got involved with the more interesting projects. For that matter, I still do!”

Dan made an interesting observation of his transition to utility life. “When I worked and taught courses at GE, I had a different sense of what was most important and what was a useful result. It’s hard to explain, but unless you have user’s perspective, you can really miss the boat. Sometimes it’s subtle things. Other times it’s the big picture. In looking back at many of my older course notes, I found I had to change them quite a bit because of my new perspective.”

Most recently, he taught a course in symmetrical components and plans to do one on distribution systems later this year. “Through IEEE, I’ve met many engineers and learned a bunch through their technical activities. I encourage my students to join and become active in IEEE and have a passion for their work.”

Outside of work, Dan enjoys spending time at Outer Banks of North Carolina during the summer and fall where swimming, fishing, reading, playing guitar or just a stroll on the beach helps him to unwind. He also volunteers a lot of his time at his church and in his community.

“I’ve been blessed to have worked with some fine people at both GE and Dominion. They have had a great influence on the way I work and teach. I appreciate all who acted as a sounding board for my ideas or who reviewed drafts of my papers and presentations. To all of them, I am forever grateful.”

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