Kenneth Sykes is an engineer.
To be precise, he is a power generation engineer for Dominion in Richmond, Va.
But, thanks a recent innovation, he now is also an inventor.
Sykes, through Dominion’s IDeAS (Innovations, Developments and Solutions) program – an initiative launched in 2013 to develop employee ideas – created an electrical fitting that improves safety at power stations.
The fitting, which Dominion licensed in March as a dust tight lock nut, is designed to protect equipment that is exposed to dust by preventing the collection of combustible dust.
"Safety is always our top concern at Dominion, so we are constantly challenged to look for ways to make our jobs safer," said Sykes, who has worked for the company for seven years.
"I originally came up with this idea after hearing about food processing plants and the risks to those plants from combustible dust. It's very rewarding to have developed a product that will protect the electrical junction boxes from dust in our power stations, eliminating a risk before it ever becomes a problem."
Since Dominion launched its IDeAS program two years ago, 20 percent of the 78 ideas submitted have been for safety devices.
But only a handful of the ideas, like the dust tight lock nut, have been commercialized.
"The energy and utility industries are going through a period of rapid change," said Mary Doswell, senior vice president-Alternative Energy Solutions at Dominion.
"New technologies and new ways of doing business are emerging in all areas. Dominion must be at the forefront because a company that fails to innovate will be left behind."
Dominion, a producer and transporter of energy, has a portfolio of about24,600 megawatts of generation; 12,200 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline; and 6,455 miles of electric transmission lines.