Gene Wolf: ‘World’s First’ Designer

Jan. 16, 2008
Gene Wolf has built a lot of “world’s first” devices in his career as a substation engineer

Gene Wolf has built a lot of “world’s first” devices in his career as a substation engineer. He designed and built the 345-kV switchyard for the Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station, and he installed the world’s first Dynamic Stabilizer at the San Juan Generating Station. He was also the project engineer for the Blackwater HVDC Converter Station, where he was instrumental in modifying it to operate as an SVC at zero power transfer.

Wolf was the project engineer for the Rio Puerco series capacitor station, the world’s first fuseless and gapless series capacitor installation. The 345-kV Taiban Mesa switching station (an interconnection station for a 204-MW wind farm) designed and built by Wolf in four months was a finalist for the prestigious Platts 2003 Global Energy Awards – Energy Engineering Project of The Year

These were just a few assignments Wolf completed as a substation engineer at Public Service Co. of New Mexico where he worked for 28 years. He retired from the utility last year after starting Lone Wolf Engineering LLC, a consulting engineering business, in 2006. He began LWE to allow more flexibility in writing, lecturing and teaching.

“My current job description is to have fun,” Wolf said. “As a consultant, I am free to schedule my time as needed. If an interesting teaching opportunity comes up, I can do it.”

Wolf has taught short courses in substation design at the New Mexico State University. He has also taught short courses at the University of Texas at Austin on substation technology, and he has lectured at the school’s “Intelligent Utility Workshop” and “Renewable Energy Workshops.”

He also taught a course at T&D World University this past fall on the “Life Extension of Substations: Replacement or Refurbishment.” The course covered an introduction to substations, maintenance practices, increased station ratings and DC systems.

“The life extension of our existing facilities is going to give us the time to replace those facilities,” Wolf said. “The technologies of the intelligent grid are going to answer a lot of the problems we are faced with today, but we need time to get them deployed.” He is currently preparing a short course for New Mexico State University on the intelligent grid.

Wolf stresses to his students that they need to have a strong foundation. “If they don’t understand the basics, they can’t apply the bells and whistles of the advanced technologies.”

Wolf received his BSEE from Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas. He did his graduate work at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he graduated from the “Electric Utility Management Program” with a MSEE.

Wolf started his career as a substation engineer for Kansas Gas and Electric in Wichita, Kansas. He went to Public Service Co. from there. “I like a challenge and I hate to repeat myself,” he said. “Designing, constructing, and commissioning substations has allowed me to do that.”

Wolf actively shares his experience and knowledge base through numerous articles in trade magazines, IEEE papers and panel sessions, and speaking engagements. He serves in leadership positions in the IEEE Power Engineering Society (PES). A fellow of the IEEE, he is the chairman of the IEEE PES T&D Committee. He has held the position of the chairman of the HVDC & FACTS Subcommittee, the chairman of the DC & FACTS Economics & Operating Strategies Working Group and membership in many T&D working groups.

He is also active in renewable energy. He sponsored the new T&D Subcommittee “Integration of Renewable Energy into the Transmission & Distribution Grids” in 2006. In 2007 Wolf is sponsoring the formation of a subcommittee on the intelligent grid.

Wolf teaches more than substation engineering, however. He also teaches a martial art from the Philippines called Escrima. He said it is a form of knife fighting using sticks, daggers, machetes, and other bladed weapons.

“When I worked for the utility, there was a lot of stress, and I found that when someone is attacking you with a machete or a baseball bat, it gives you a chance to forget about the office,” he said.

He holds a seventh degree black belt in Escrima and has taught defense of bladed weapons to the FBI in Albuquerque. After 9-11, he taught flight crews self defense to help them regain their confidence.

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