Wind Turbine Technicians ‘Step Up’ to Support Pakistan’s Renewables Goal
Most of us are taking steps to address climate change and promote sustainability. But it’s likely none of us are taking as many steps as Fawwad Haq who climbs 80-meter-tall towers to service and repair wind turbines in Pakistan.
A services manager with GE Renewable Energy, Fawwad manages more than 50 wind turbine technicians who perform maintenance on hundreds of turbines at nine wind farms in the country. A total of 233 direct and indirect employees help manage operations at eight of the plants.
“Renewable energy is the future. With global warming happening, it’s good to say you’re working in the renewables business,” says Fawwad. “We are producing clean energy but not CO2 at these plants, so we’re giving people a better, cleaner type of energy.”
Significantly, across these windfarms, GE service teams have delivered an availability of greater than 98%, meaning these facilities are able to capture the maximum wind and generate the maximum electricity possible.
The 271 GE wind turbines across the nine plants have a combined generating capaci-ty of 450 megawatts (MW) – representing more than 36% of the current 1,235-MW total installed wind capacity in the country.
By 2030, Pakistan aims to generate 30% of its electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass and small-scale hydro. This will complement the 27% of current electricity supply coming from large-scale hydro.
While GE provides wind turbine maintenance across all nine wind farms in Pakistan using GE turbine technology, at eight of them, the company also provides balance of plant services, including power generation and electricity dispatch to the grid.
For the wind turbine technicians, keeping the electricity flowing requires not only technical skills, but also physical strength and the ability to work under extreme condi-tions of heat and dust.
Most of the wind farms that GE maintains and operates in Pakistan are located in desert regions where temperatures in early June were already in the 40s. It takes nearly 15 minutes, with necessary water breaks along the way, to climb the 80 meter tall metal towers to reach the top of the wind turbines.
“After I did my first climb [a couple years ago], I thought, ‘Oh, this is difficult!’ But af-ter a few times, I adjusted to it and now it’s fine,” recalls Fawwad, adding, “The way things are going, renewables will capture a larger share of energy generation in the years to come, not only Pakistan, but in the rest of the world as well.”
Fawwad previously worked in conventional power generation, where there are sepa-rate specialist technicians for mechanical, electrical and instrumentation work. That’s not the case with wind turbines.
“Only one team goes up and must be an electrical and mechanical all in one. You need to perform the preventative maintenance and troubleshooting; I feel proud every time I operate on it”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the work continues, with additional health and tem-perature checks, two medical centers within the facilities were established that sup-ports the team on the ground, mandatory use of personal protective equipment such as masks, and steps to promote social distancing.