We're talking about the activities of ERG Renew Operations & Maintenance with Gianluca Teodori, Head of Maintenance Operations, who tells us where our logistics centres are and how they're structured, but especially what the ordinary and extraordinary activities are.
Gianluca, will you tell us who you are and what you do?
I'm 44 years old and from Rome. I'm married and about to become a dad. I have a degree in electrical engineering from La Sapienza University and here at ERG I'm Head of Maintenance Operations, which means I'm in charge of the organisation that runs the maintenance services for the aero-generators or, as everyone calls them, the wind turbines.
What's your career been so far, and how did you come into the ERG Group?
My first significant work experience was in Paris as foreman in the refurbishment of a big luxury hotel; I managed about 80 workers installing technological equipment: there were Italians, Frenchmen and various other nationalities of Africa and Europe and the project was run by a French multinational. Actually, before that, my military experience, in the Army, was also fundamental; that experience can be considered the first building block in my training in the management and coordination of people. After the Paris experience I spent two years in Pescara on a public sector contract. In 2006, in Rome, I entered the world of wind power with Gamesa, one of Spain's leading wind turbine manufacturers: I was in charge of installation and maintenance services for clients. In 2008 I joined IP Maestrale, the Italian branch of the British group International Power, owner at the time of the asset that today is ERG Wind. Thus I went over to the "client's" side, which allowed me to enrich my experience as Asset Manager, exploring the dynamics of relations with the local authorities, the GSE (Energy Services Operator) and the owners of the land on which our installations were mounted.
Late in 2012 (in December, precisely) IP Maestrale was acquired by ERG and I had a great opportunity, because a project of insourcing of O&M's business was already being considered: since November 2014, in fact, I've been at the head, as I was saying, of an organisation of about 70 technicians and 30 other employees who attend to the maintenance service of ERG Renew's installations.
Let's talk about your work, the less technical and more relational aspects of it: what's really important?
Beyond the technical skills, it's essential to establish a good relationship with the team and to know you can count on your teammates. It's important to be close to them and to remember that "unity is strength", because often we work in conditions of little if any comfort ... at heights ... in the heat and cold.
Can we talk now about ERG Renew Operations & Maintenance?
ERG Renew O&M sees to the operation and maintenance of the Group's wind farms through timely work on turbines, electrical substations, cable ducts and substations. The objective is to maximise the installations' availability and target the highest levels of efficiency, of course with great attention to safety and environmental aspects.
What benefits has the insourcing of maintenance brought?
The insourcing of maintenance allows greater response speed in case of breakdowns and aligns the objectives of both manufacturer and maintenance firm towards maximum production: we can say that ERG Renew is unique in the panorama of wind power producers in Italy. The extensive presence of technicians, organised exclusively for our needs and according to our installations' operational particularities, allows an optimisation of resources and an economy of scale that are unattainable if you rely on external providers. In the end, operating costs are slashed as plant efficiency increases.
Where are the operational centres of ERG Renew O&M?
In Italy we have nine Operational Centres situated in as many provinces in the south and in the islands: Montefalcone in Benevento province, Monacilioni in Campobasso, Alberona in Foggia, Montaguto in Avellino, then Forenza (Potenza); in Sicily, Carlentini and Camporeale, in Sardinia, Ploaghe and Bortigiadas. All our centres are located in the vicinity of the wind farms, in order to allow quick action in case of breakdowns or malfunctions. In 2015 we've also opened our first logistics centre abroad, in Celle, Germany.
How is each logistics centre structured?
Each one is made up of a storage area containing stocks of spare parts for the installation linked to the centre. It's here that the so-called "main components", i.e. the parts that are crucial for wind turbines such as set-up gears, electricity generators, transformers, medium and high voltage switches and the blades, are also stored. One area is devoted, on the other hand, to all the products that need segregating: inflammables, oils, fats, refuse etc. Other areas are devoted to the technical-operational and office staff. Finally, in two of the nine centres we have the installation's control room, which performs the service of real-time monitoring 24/7.
How many people are employed at each logistics centre?
It depends on the Centre and, therefore, the number of installations served, but on average each centre employs about twenty people – fifteen technicians and five staff – coordinated by a head. There are no shifts but our technicians offer on-call service. The professional skills required to carry out maintenance services on wind farms are quite varied, and mostly technical. It's obviously necessary to know the wind turbines well, and these often differ from one another in design depending on manufacturer; for this knowledge some basic electro-mechanical training and a specific skill in the sector are needed. Equally important are the skills involved in the maintenance of power lines and electrical substations, skills that are formed over years of work and with continuous and diversified training for each type of equipment. Other people attend to civil works for the upkeep of the roads and foundations, to wind speed observation and data monitoring (both simple monitoring and for optimising the installations' performance), logistics and procurement for the spare parts stores. Also very important is the overseeing of safety and the environment, and so we have a support staff for these tasks.
Let's turn now to the more technical aspects involved in maintenance: what are the particular features of wind farm maintenance services as against traditional electricity production sites?
Wind power installations have the characteristics common to all production sites in terms of maintenance standards: routine maintenance, which we are able to carry out on a schedule based on the wind forecasts – this to keep losses of production to a minimum – and then the extraordinary work, that on breakdowns, carried out almost always in a short time, thanks to the immediate availability in the operational centres' stores of those parts most liable to breakage.
The particular feature of wind farms, what marks them out from other types of electrical plants and makes their maintenance services complex, can be noted mainly in the non-programmability of the primary source, the wind! This is why stoppages are seldom programmable (in fact wind forecasts are scarcely reliable and made only for the coming 72 hours); the other characteristic relates to the installations' geographical distribution over extended territories. They're unenclosed and often hard to reach and, furthermore, the workspaces, atop 60/70 metre-high towers and reached by ladder, are rather confined and uncomfortable to operate in.
How is efficient maintenance service obtained?
Succeeding in managing the scheduled stoppages in the most efficient way and taking prompt action to repair breakdowns form the basis of a good maintenance service, but the qualitative leap is through "predictive" analysis of potential breakdowns of the main components. Combining advanced technology and specific analysis skills, we succeed in predicting the breakdown of a main component: this allows us to schedule repair work in advance, before the breakdown happens, to organise the logistics of spare parts, lifting equipment and civil works so as to do the job swiftly and on a day of low wind, reducing the loss of production to a minimum.
Let's talk now about extraordinary maintenance:
When we talk about extraordinary maintenance we mean all the tasks carried out as a result of a breakdown and intended to restore the normal operation of the installation. The maintenance stages are divided in two: research and detection of the breakdown and repair work; naturally, of the two, the first is that of greater skill value, and it's here that our technicians make the difference.