This article was first published by New Energy Update.
Working with the community helped Apex Clean Energy achieve outstanding performance at its Kay Wind project and that won Apex an award. The Kay Wind team picked up the prestigious Wind Farm Team of the Year prize at New Energy Update’s Wind O&M Dallas 2017 conference.
Accepting the award, John Boyle, Apex’s health and safety manager, said: “This initiative is a reflection of changing the perception of wind in smaller communities. It’s truly made an impact.”
The 299-MW Kay Wind project is spread over a wide area within a rural community, said Apex facility manager Mark Hallowell. Collaborating with the local community has been critical since the plant started operating in December 2015.
“If you don’t have that trust, the small details don’t get brought up,” Hallowell said. ““Trust strengthens communication and collaboration, both of which help to ensure the safety of your teammates and the optimal performance of the facility.”
But the operations and maintenance (O&M) team has also worked hard to maintain good working relationships with on-site contractors, such as a team from the turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa, and local emergency services such as the fire brigade.
The team has daily meetings where O&M and safety matters are discussed. The team also identifies and coordinates periodically with local volunteer responders on changes to emergency response procedures.
The team holds annual meetings with these responders. This lets the responders ask questions about wind farm operations which also gives the Kay team valuable insights into community affairs, such as personnel changes at the local fire station.
“In the event that something doesn’t go well, we want to make sure we have the best response possible,” Hallowell said.
In 2016, the team went further and staged a mock up-tower rescue, complete with a simulated helicopter evacuation and landing zone training.
The training could be vital in an emergency, said Sonny O’Brien, service site manager for Siemens Gamesa. “If it’s serious enough that we are going to call in a helicopter, you’re talking a life or death situation,” he said.
“Without proper training, the outcome could be a death.”
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