I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Phil McKay, the CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) Director of Operations & Maintenance. Though extremely busy putting the final touches on organizing its annual CanWEA O&M Summit, taking place in Toronto Feb 1 and 2, we spoke for about 15 minutes about the national market for wind turbine services, jobs, training, and how communities can be pro-active in having wind power services teams as part of their local economies.
The oldest operating wind farms in Canada (in Southern Alberta), are roughly 15 years old now, the forefathers of over 11,000MW of wind power across the country today. As such, a significant amount of expertise is being directed toward keeping the fleet running at the highest level possible.
Though the high-profile, often political world of new project investment, development, and construction get the headlines, the service teams quietly go about their business, ensuring clean renewable energy gets to the grid. Phil said the watch-words of this side of the industry are Safety, Collaboration, Communication, Performance, and Community. Through its relationships with Canadian colleges that offer wind turbine technician programs, new careers are being launched from the classroom straight into the field.
CanWEA’s official O&M department is about six months old. It is supported by association members from four regions; Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic and Western. In general, communities have a good understanding of the work the service teams do, and welcome their presence. When asked how communities can help play a role in support of the wind service industry, suggestions included well-informed emergency services, well-maintained roads, and a general awareness of safe behaviour when passing through the project area. There is also an opportunity for local hardware stores, electrical suppliers, and machinery supply centers to carry extra stock commonly used in wind turbine repair and maintenance, which can help speed up service turn-around times.
At the Conference, the main theme is “moving forward through communication”. The industry has entered a new, mature stage, one that will be solidified through open channels. This includes vertically between various levels of the service division, between turbine manufacturer and wind-farm owner, between industry and local communities, and also between different companies. Aside from the process of bidding on power auctions, the industry is better served by a spirit of cooperation, rather than competition, as everyone benefits when wind turbine performance is maximized through sharing data and best practices.