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To construct wind turbines, One Energy uses a crane to lift and install components, such as the generator pictured below (which weighs 101,200 pounds). For this week’s Wind Study, learn about “critical picks”, how to read tables and crane load charts, and help us answer two math problems about lifting components with a crane.
This week’s view features our Wind for Industry project located in Ottawa, Ohio. Rather than sending power to the electric grid, this 1.5 MW utility-scale wind turbine directly powers a local manufacturing facility.
Introducing Technician Talk! Check back every month for a new tutorial from one of One Energy’s own wind technicians. Learn a new skill, get to know our gear, watch us complete a task, and meet the crew! Get down to the nitty gritty of building a Wind for Industry project! This week, we’re learning from OE Technician Justin Bruns.
Curious why wind turbines (and other tall structures) flash red at night?
Those red blinking lights are called FAA Obstruction Lights – FAA stands for the Federal Aviation Administration. These lights help illuminate tall structures, such as wind turbines, so that aircraft can easily identify and avoid them.
Justin will explain all about FAA lights – and what happens if an FAA light stops functioning on a wind turbine.
To catch future Technician Talks, subscribe to our You Tube channel!
Ever wonder what makes a wind turbine spin?
Your hosts Hans and Josh will tackle that common question in this latest installment of One Energy’s Science Shorts – the series where we explore all things science and STEM!
Learn what aerodynamic forces are, and how one force in particular – lift – enables both airplane travel and the movement of wind turbine blades. Hans and Josh, interns at One Energy, will explain how blades are designed to “catch the wind,” and will share an up-close view of a wind turbine blade.
To catch future Science Shorts, subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Wind turbine construction jobs are not for the weak of heart. The long working hours and ever-changing whereabouts can trigger discord with work-life balance. Construction is also a risky business. Not only can these jobs take a toll on one’s home life, but they require physical activity beyond a typical desk job, as well as presence of mind each and every day. If you have an off day, the consequences can be fatal.
It’s common for construction companies to incentivize projects, to try to increase employee engagement and performance. With promotions, bonuses, and additional time off, there is encouragement to perform work ahead of schedule and under budget. While incentives may seem like a great answer, they can quickly create a perilous work environment of cutting corners and making decisions without logic.
The pressure or longing to complete tasks quickly can often outweigh the necessity of completing tasks safely and correctly. The easy answer to combat this incentivized risk is to add checks and balances through third parties and/or in-house teams. While that is prudent and necessary, it doesn’t solve the entire problem. These checks and balances don’t always have the necessary authority, silos can develop, toxic work environments can fester, and all kinds of problems can arise.
So how do you combat mistakes and ensure safety, while enabling innovation?
One Energy is the largest installer of on-site wind in the U.S. After several years of performing traditional construction management services, we strategically moved to self-perform all aspects of the construction process. (Meaning, we use in-house labor to install all civil, foundation, electrical, and erection work.) Over the last decade, we’ve learned that it is possible to innovate – to become faster, leaner, and more efficient – without incentivizing risk or sacrificing safety and/or quality.
Here’s how we do it:
- Robust training and cross-training. Our daily decisions are often made in a vacuum, with employees instinctively assessing “How will this affect me and what I am accomplishing in this moment?” While those questions are important, team members must also think about the parts of the overall process that are affected by missteps. Train your employees to be effective in their roles, but also invest in cross-training, so employees see the bigger picture.
- Employees need breaks and clear expectations. An employee who shows grit is great, but I need our team members to stay engaged for their entire careers. Burnout is real. Set boundaries and expectations for employees in their roles – including time away from the job.
- Spend time finding the right hires. Hiring is difficult and finding people when you need them is even more challenging. Some of the best potential hires are people you already have a working relationship with. You might be surprised by the places we’ve found brilliant hires, from waitstaff at a local restaurant to fellow gym members. Get to know people. Get to know your industry. Spend time finding the right fit and remember that it doesn’t always have to happen overnight, and it doesn’t have to be typical.
- Celebrate the wins and analyze the losses. Rewarding people for a job well done is a great way to take care of them, whether it’s company-wide or on an individual basis. However, when something doesn’t go well, don’t shy away from the conflict. Address it, learn from it, and move on, rather than avoiding the conversation or ignoring it outright.
- Allow ALL employees to innovate (in a controlled environment). Innovation is not something many companies allow at all levels, but it must be a priority in construction. Allow for and encourage the free flow of information – but make sure implementation is strategic and deliberate, with alignment at all levels.
- Vertically integrate. Build a team that can rally around each other. Our teams are part of the process from green field to operational project, and there is a lot of pride in participating at (and completing) each stage. Build and develop a team that wants to take on the world – from start to finish.
- Empower employee fulfillment. Employment is selfish by nature; we all work to get paid and to feel fulfilled. Money is nice, but fulfillment is the goal. Take good care of the people who take good care of your business.
Too many construction crews get into a “finish at all costs” mentality and lose their field of vision. It’s easy to let one thing slide, and then another, and another. Sliding into that culture could cost some teams a lot more than money. Make sure that team is not yours.
Chelsea Bumb is the Head of Construction at One Energy.
Welcome to our latest installment of Wind Study, featuring homework problems using 2-D geometry and rates.
On Monday, we asked for your help to determine the length of the ladders inside our utility-scale wind turbines, as well as how long it would take one of our technicians to climb one of these ladders. (If you haven’t read Monday’s question yet, click here.)
The answers to these questions can be downloaded via the link below.
Below, a One Energy employee is pictured climbing the ladder inside a wind turbine tower. (Note that the employee is wearing various gear, which is required to keep climbers safe when working in the turbine.)
For an up-close view of the inside of a One Energy wind turbine, check out our “Virtual Tour of a Wind Farm” below! (Ladder-specific footage begins at 19:35.)
The investment world is made up of boxes. Capital providers decide which boxes interest them and then hunt for deals that fit the shape. Whether it is a high-rise building, a new energy technology, or even a cutting-edge piece of software, everything gets categorized into a box.
But what happens when you do not fit into a box? What if you have deliberately built a company to break the mold? How do you package your great, albeit oddly shaped, idea in a way that makes a stubborn investment world start to think outside their standard-shaped box?
Wind energy is not a new concept for the investment world. Wind energy is a proven technology that currently makes up 7 percent of the United States’ electricity needs. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to convince an investor that a wind project will provide a safe, steady return. But One Energy does not do large wind projects that fit into a standard box – we do behind-the-meter, on-site wind. What makes sense for a large wind project that interconnects into the power grid (specifically for the wholesale market), does not necessarily make sense for a Wind for Industry project. As it turns out, when you take a proven technology but apply it in a new and innovative way, the constraints of a standard deal process must be tossed out.
I’ve gone through many rounds of due diligence during the fundraise process. And each time, no matter how much an investor swears they understand our business model is different, they ultimately give us due diligence requests designed to force the deal to look like one the group has already done before. We are constantly squeezed into a standard-sized box. Phrases such as “industry standard” are used frequently.
For example, installing multiple meteorological masts on-site for two years might make sense from a scheduling and financial standpoint for a 100-turbine job that takes years to develop – but it is nearly impossible for a five-turbine job that can take a fraction of the time. LiDAR technology, something the large wind industry is only starting to adopt as a stand-alone data source, is now our go-to for on-site data campaigns due to its deployment flexibility. We have had to adapt our wind resource methods to meet the timeline and financial constraints of on-site wind, while still meeting or exceeding the accuracy required of a large wind project. This has been quite a challenge to explain to investors who claim they want to be a part of the next big thing, but in reality, would much rather stick with the same old thing.
For years, my team has studied the best way to take the existing industry standards and dissect them into the core scientific principles they’re governed by. In our published methodologies, we explain our creative solutions that make Wind for Industry projects possible. The science is the same, the answer is the same, but the process is different. I wish I could spend more time explaining the science behind our impressive methods to potential investors, rather than explaining over and over why it is unreasonable to expect on-site wind to fit into the same box as a large wind project.
Investors and third-party engineers must take the time to listen to the science behind the deal instead of running through a predetermined check list. If you always use the same standard boxes, innovation is impossible. The exact same deals will be funded time and again, industry standard will never be challenged, and out-of-the-box thinking will be nonexistent. Where’s the fun in that?
Jessica Grosso is the Head of Project Planning and Technology at One Energy.
This aerial shot of a wind turbine during construction highlights the grated decks One Energy uses in our turbine towers.
These One Energy employees are standing on the deck of the first tower section, called the “base.” All four tower sections are topped with one of these decks. Unlike other wind turbines with solid, diamond-plated decks, One Energy’s open-grated design allows for better airflow, lighting, and communication while climbing. The decks assist in the construction of the wind turbine, as workers wait to stack each tower section, like in the photo below! (They also act as nice resting spots for technicians as they climb the ladder to the top of the turbine.)
Learn more about One Energy’s patented hanging deck design on our Patents and Trademarks page.
Can’t get enough? Our Head of Construction Chelsea shares more about our patented deck design during our Virtual Tour – deck commentary starts at 18:57.
One Energy’s wind turbines sit upon 80-meter-tall towers, which have a ladder that runs from the basement up to the top deck, just below the nacelle. Employees climb this ladder from time to time, in order to perform maintenance on the turbine. Help us determine the length of this ladder, as well as how long it will take our Technician Justin to climb it!
Have questions about some of the words used in this question, like “nacelle”? Check out webpage 4.1 Energy Terminology.