RENEW Energy SGRE Repowers Project

Renew Energy recently completed work on the largest wind turbine project that the company has taken on to date. 

Last year, Siemens Gamesa reached out to Renew to inquire whether or not they could help support the company with a repower of a project in central Iowa. The project consisted of 193 Siemens 2.3 megawatt towers which were, on average, close to 13 years old. Needless to say, they were in need of an upgrade. That upgrade was to a Siemens Gamesa 2.9 megawatt tower; a huge increase in efficiency. 

The project began in November of 2021, and major component replacements just recently wrapped up.  

At our peak, nearly 100 Renew, TP&L, and Airways techs worked on this project, putting in over 160,000 working hours. 

One of the most remarkable aspects of this job was the fact that, over the course of the 10-month project, there were zero lost time injuries for Renew.

‘Lost time injuries’ are injuries that take a technician off of the project, either for days, weeks, even hours. With over 100 people working on this project, not one of them missed any time due to injuries sustained at the site. 

“A project this size, just statistically, you’re always going to have minor injuries; little hand injuries and things like that,” said Patrick Glenn the General Manager of Construction and Field Services with Renew Energy. “Of course, we strive for zero but some small things do come up. These lost time injuries are really an important metric, upon which we can rate a lot of our success. And we’re really happy to report that after 160,000 working hours, Renew incurred zero lost time injuries, and certainly no fatalities. We just installed our last component and repowered our final turbine. The final rotor went up yesterday.” 

The actual work that the project consisted of was vast and varied. 

“We were doing offloads of the new components, then we had up-tower teams that were taking down the old rotor and the old nacelle,” Glenn said. “A lot of these towers got a whole new top section. And it varied from tower to tower. Some of them got an adapter, some of them got a whole new top section to accommodate the new nacelle. So we would have our up tower teams and then we would have decommissioning teams that went in ahead of those guys and got the tower ready for crane work; determining cables, maybe draining some oils, disconnecting sensitive components and sensors. Then the crane work would happen with that up tower team, followed up by a recommissioning crew that would come in and clean everything and plug stuff back in and get the tower ready to operate. And then it would get inspected by the asset owner, who made sure that we put everything back together according to their expectations and guidelines.” 

There was a lot of work done by the various teams.

“We did have some competition on site,” Glenn stated. “There was another company providing labor support, but we have a good working relationship with them, even though we’re competitors. We did a really good job; I think everyone got along really well and worked well together. There were times where we had to kind of share resources. We helped them some days, they helped us some days. And in a situation where sometimes people don’t work well together, I think that our team down there did a really great job.” 

Renew wasn’t just working with their competitor, however. They were also assisted by their sister companies, Airway Services and Transportation Partners and Logistics. 

“We did have support from Airway Services and TP&L, in terms of helping us staff this project,” Glenn stated. “We had a couple TP&L guys that came out here and helped out for quite a while. This certainly wasn’t strictly, solely a Renew effort. It really was a collaboration between ourselves and our sister companies that made this project a success. It’s a real testament to the TAKKION brand and just the power that this collaboration and the teamwork amongst our brands brings. It was super cool to have our sister companies on site, just knowing that we’re all working towards the same goal.”

Airways services had also provided some TFA’s to the project, who assisted with oversight, as well as some blade techs.

That goal, Glenn said, was completing the largest technician mobilization project Renew has worked on to date. And the final product was the result of a lot of hard work, from a lot of people. 

“Ruben Waldner was our primary point of contact and our primary communication point with Siemens and a lot of the other companies on site,” Glenn shared. “Ruben was supported by some TFA’s that we have working for us;  technical field advisors. We were there not only to perform the craft labor- which is the crane work and the decommissioning and the recommissioning and the offload – but Siemens Gamesa also utilized us in an oversite role, where we had separate techs experienced with Siemens towers with a lot of experience that served as technical field advisors. So, it was a unique situation because, usually, Siemens would call us in as TFA’s to oversee other contractors’ work, but we were utilized not only in the construction and the craft labor side, but also in the quality assurance side, too.” 

Because of that, Glenn said, there was a lot of teamwork happening on the site. 

“Employees that we have who have different specialties were able to kind of look after each other and help each other learn through this process in a way that you don’t usually get if you’re overseeing a competitor or overseeing someone from a different company,” Glenn stated. 

The project was also able to utilize local labor workers, which benefited the community and put money, and jobs, back into it. 

“Generally, projects of this nature do utilize a lot of local labor,” Glenn revealed. “I know that some of the demolition contractors, as well as the crane company, were reaching out to not only local unions, but also to local laborers, to support the different aspects of the project. In addition to some of the jobs created around here, the revenue that was brought in by these hundreds of technicians across all the different subcontractors and contractors that were on site was, I think, a major boom to their local economy during the last year. I couldn’t begin to estimate the exact amount, but it no doubt came as a huge boost to the local hotels, restaurants, gas stations and local vendors.”

“I know the hardware stores made out pretty good,” Glenn laughed. 

Enormous projects like these always benefit the communities of which they are a part, and this project was no different. That’s just one of the reasons why Renew was chosen to work on this project. There were many other reasons, as well; not the least of which is the vast amount of experience that the Renew team has. 

“It would be hard to quantify the years and years of experience that is shared amongst the team that was there,” Glenn stated. “It has to be a hundred people. We’re talking about, probably, hundreds of years of experience that we can bring to the table. And then, just the capacity to support a mobilization like this, with over a hundred people all needing transportation to and from work, and all of the logistics that go into supporting a workforce of this size in these remote parts of the country. I think Siemens knew that we could provide them with the workforce that was experienced and well-managed, well-mannered, professional and, more than anything, safe and capable.” 

Renew, as well as its sister companies, has proven itself to be more than capable, in any situation, with any project. This project in particular, the largest project Renew has completed, is just further proof of that. 

“It was just a really great effort,” Glenn said. “It was a really large effort. There were a lot of people that put in a lot of really great work. Our commitment to safety was one of the shining points on this project. We brought in our own safety professionals to oversee our team, in addition to about a half dozen onsite safety people that Siemens Gamesa had on site. Our commitment to safety and quality was such that we opted to have our own onsite, full-time safety personnel there, just to make sure that we did everything right.” 

They did. 

RENEW Energy Open House Raises $20,000

RENEW Energy recently partnered with the South Dakota Wind Energy Association (SDWEA) for an open
house event for their facility, featuring a golf tournament and a sporting clay tournament to benefit multiple local organizations.

This industry-wide event that promoted workforce development, wind development, and sustainable
community change, benefitted the Mitchell Technical College (MTC), Lake Area Technical College (LATC),
SDWEA, and South Dakota 4-H.

Altogether, the event raised $20,000 for these local organizations.

“RENEW appreciates our partnership with the South Dakota Wind Energy Association,” said Sarah Kreyer, the Vice President of Human Resources and Marketing for RENEW Energy. “And the reason we partner with them is because we wanted to make this event more of an industry event. In the past, it was called the RENEW Customer Appreciation Event, where we wanted to get people together and ‘thank’ them. It started small; we did an open house and a baseball game. We did some golfing too, but now we’ve evolved to this industry event where hundreds of people come from all over the nation.”

She said that the event brings people from all across the country, and even internationally as well.

The golf tournament took place at the Elmwood Golf Course, while the sporting clay tournament took place at the Hunters Pointe Shooting Complex. Following both tournaments, the awards social and dinner took place on the Elmwood property.

Kreyer said that they had approximately 100 golfers, 50 shooters, and multiple attendees of the baseball game and open house. In total, she said that between 250 and 275 people participated in and/or attended the event.

“The purpose of making it more of an industry event is to get people from the wind sector together to
network,” Kreyer said. “It’s a huge networking opportunity for all attendees. It’s exciting to be told, the
RENEW event is ‘the event’ of the year.”

Expanding the event not only brought more people together, it actually saved on costs as well. Whereas
before, RENEW would cover one hundred percent of the costs associated with this event, now various
companies and organizations could sponsor a hole or a station or a number of golfers or a number of
shooters.

“Through sponsorships from these key customers and vendors, this year we helped raise $20,000 for local
organizations,” Kreyer revealed. “We select the technical colleges from the area to give back to, and we give back to the South Dakota Wind Energy Association as well, so they can continue to promote wind within our state.”

There’s one more beneficiary, however, that RENEW leaves up to a vote. RENEW employees complete a
survey of who they think is the most deserving, and each year that rotates.

“In the past we’ve had Special Olympics, we’ve had ‘Feeding South Dakota,’ we’ve had LifeScape,
she shared. “But this year the organization that was picked was South Dakota 4-H.”

While this was a RENEW event, it also included all of its sister companies as well.

“There was good participation from RENEW, and then we had participation from TP&L, AIRWAY, TAKKION, and some people in the GSS sector as well,” Kreyer stated. “So, all of our sister companies showed great support too and it was really nice to have all of our brands out there. So, from a Takkion company, they’re not only seeing RENEW. RENEW is the host, but all of our sister companies were well recognized, and they helped support the event as well.”

This event was an opportunity to gather, to network, to have some fun, and to raise money for some
incredible organizations. It was a chance for RENEW to really show what they do but, maybe more
importantly, it was a chance for RENEW to really show who they are; as a company, as a brand, and as a
partner.

“The neat thing, what makes this so special is that a lot of the times, the main opportunities that we have to get in front of our customers are at the Clean Power events or at other industry events, but we go there,” she offered. “We meet, we talk conceptual or this, that, and the other, but some of these customers or vendors don’t actually visit our location. So, putting on an event that does have a donation opportunity that goes to a good cause will help prompt people to come to beautiful South Dakota, and they can see our facility. And people are blown away by the magnitude of our remanufacturing facility, our training center, and all the services we offer. It’s a great opportunity for them to see up close and personal what we do day-in and day-out!”

RENEW Announces New Facility in Enid, Oklahoma

RENEW Energy is proud to announce the construction of a new remanufacturing facility in Enid, Oklahoma. This new facility will remanufacture wind turbine drive trains, and it will hold the largest capacity in North America in regards to the size of said turbines.

Services on these turbines will be performed entirely on-site, other than the transportation of the actual turbines to and from the facility. 

“We’re going to try and keep everything in-house,” said Travis Harkins, Chief Operating Officer of RENEW Energy. “The only thing that I would say would be off-site is the transportation to and from, and that will be through Global Specialized Services, our sister company. They will provide the transportation for us and then our other sister site, Transportation Partners and Logistics, will provide the logistics and the material handling for us.”

For years, the city of Enid, Oklahoma has been an important partner with RENEW and all of its sister companies, so when they approached city officials with the idea of the new facility, it was an easy deal to make.

“The number one reason why this is going to benefit our customers is because of the strategic location of Enid, being right in the Southern wind corridor of North America,” Harkins revealed. “It’s right in the heart of wind projects and wind farms, so it really puts us in a great location for servicing multiple asset owners, as well as OEMs at this location.” 

Another huge benefit to customers is the actual size of the facility. The RENEW facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has a capacity of up to three megawatts. The Enid location will have a capacity of up to seven megawatts. 

Those are the benefits to customers. But the new facility will benefit the city of Enid, as well. For multiple reasons, including the fact that it will provide more than 90 full time jobs to the community. 

“We’re going to have jobs ranging from entry-level labor positions all the way up through engineering and management,” Harkins stated. “Obviously with engineering and management, those are jobs that require some schooling, but then there’s also the technical side. There are going to be several skilled labor positions that are not only experience-based but also trade school-based.”

Harkins said that, at its peak, this new facility will be able to offer more than 90 paid positions to Enid residents. The creation of this new facility benefits all parties involved, and it secures Enid’s involvement in the ever-growing world of wind energy. 

“In regards to this opportunity – obviously we’re creating a lot of new jobs, but it’s a new sector in regards to the energy market right now as well,” Harkins stated. “Instead of being in oil and gas, it’s bringing in renewables. And renewables are going to be around for quite some time; it’s the fastest growing industry in energy right now. So that’s a huge piece. But the other huge piece is that TP&L has been in the community and they’ve had great support. They support local events, the community, and multiple non-profits. Whether that’s giving time or, obviously, donations, or even the fact that last year, GSS and TP&L provided Enid with the world’s tallest Christmas tree – those are all great things and they’ve created a great partnership and a great relationship between the local community and TAKKION as a whole.”

Powell agreed. 

“Enid has always recognized ourselves as being the hub of renewable energy development in the south-central part of the U.S.” she said. “With our proximity to renewable energy projects and our strong transportation network, it makes sense that the manufacturing and maintenance to support the renewable industry is also located in Enid. This announcement by RENEW is a huge first step in realizing this vision and may just be the beginning of a new industry cluster in north-central Oklahoma. We appreciate the investment in facilities and new jobs that RENEW  is bringing to our community and we look forward to supporting their success for years to come.”

RENEW Energy’s R&D Department

It’s been said that if you want something done well, you’ve got to do it yourself and that’s exactly what RENEW Energy’s R&D Department does on a daily basis to provide technicians with safer, more efficient working conditions.

“RENEW’s R&D program has two objectives,” said Curt Eliason, the VP of Remanufacturing/R&D with RENEW. “One is on improving reliability on current wind turbine component designs, and the second is developing very unique and creative ways of performing repair.”

Whether it focuses on in-the-field type situations or problems in the shop, the goal is to find creative ways to fix turbines in a manner that promotes safety, efficiency and, ultimately, lowers the cost of maintenance and the cost of energy produced.

To do this, Eliason said he asks himself and his team a series of questions.

“On the repair side of things, can we eliminate a bunch of costs by reducing the downtime?” he asked. “Can we reduce or eliminate a crane that’s needed to replace these components?”

Eliason said the traditional way to repair a turbine is to remove the entire component from the tower, which requires lowering it down, shipping it to a facility to be repaired, and then putting it back up. This becomes an expensive project when it comes to costs for cranes, labor, and logistics.

“So,” he wondered, “can we repair this up-tower, in place? For component improvement, that’s maybe a little more straightforward, because on the fieldwork side of things, we’re developing tools and processes that do not exist. We’re not only starting from a blank sheet of paper with a new design; the tools don’t exist. You can’t open a catalogue or Google it and find what you need.”

So, the R&D development literally invents the equipment it needs and then develops the processes in which to use it.

“We’ve been awarded several patents for what we’ve been able to develop as far as tooling and procedures,” Eliason stated. “And I think that speaks to our creativity and outside the box thinking. So many times over the course of my 25 year career, I’ve heard people say, when I present a new idea or a colleague presents a new idea, ‘Oh, that can’t be; that’s impossible.’ And it’s like this switch goes off and I say, ‘Okay, game on.’ If we’re given a challenge, I’m just driven to come up with a solution.”

And RENEW’s R&D Department has come up with many solutions.

Such was the case with a Gearbox Model that was becoming problematic for technicians.

“On one specific Gearbox Model that’s a very common model within the industry, they had a problem with a bearing spinning within the housing,” Eliason detailed. “When that happened, the outer part of the bearing needed to stay stationary while the inner part spun. But over time, that outer part would start to spin and it would wear material off the bore where the bearing was mounted. It would cause a lot of destruction and it was a very expensive repair.”

Eliason said that many different people were trying to figure out how to solve this problem; how to fix it and make the problem go away. And none of the ideas were working.

“I said we need to fix this the correct way, so we developed machine tools that we could take up the tower with other supporting equipment that would allow us to disassemble the gear box and perform the repair up tower,” Eliason said. “There’s just a lot of complexity in that process, and it was accepted by the market and the owner of these types of assets. It was a solution; not just a short-term band-aid. It was a long term, permanent fix. And it’s performed well. It’s met all of our expectations but, more importantly, it’s met our customer’s expectations. And it’s done so as a qualified, reliable repair that’s much cheaper than removing the gear box entirely from service and sending it to a workshop. So that’s one method that has really helped us prove our worth; it’s been an accepted repair method that nobody else is doing today.”

Eliason was quick to point out that this is his life’s work; it’s what he loves to do. But, he said, he’s far from the only person who has made RENEW’s R&D Department what it is today.

“I may contribute a little bit, but to make everything come together on the design, on the proof of concept, on the fabrication…to make these tools you have to be a certified welder and really know what you’re doing with some kind of exotic steel blends that are super strong, lightweight, and durable,” Eliason said. “The fabrication process is another good example of the higher-level skill that it takes to make an idea come together, as well as the testing, and training, and application of usage. It really is a team effort and I’m humbled to associate with such a talented group of people.” RENEW Energy’s R&D Department proves that there’s no ‘I’ in team. It also proves that if you want something done well, you should do it yourself…or bring it to R&D.

RENEW Technical Training Program

You’ve heard of on-the-job training, but RENEW is taking that phrase to a whole ‘nother level.

RENEW has implemented a training regimen for its technicians that results in better, safer work and higher morale among employees. This Technical Training Program is a 3-part training system designed to help technicians retain information and continue to develop the skills necessary to maintain our commitment to safety and our exemplary track record.

“The Senior Management Group and the managers at RENEW wanted to create something that would address the day-to-day operations that our technicians were going through,” said Brett Citrowske, Director of Training for RENEW. “We met with our managers and lead techs of projects and asked them what they expected technicians to know within the first six months of being here. And then we built out what we call a Training Matrix, which has very highly specific technical criteria for what is expected from an individual as they go from a Tech 0, or a Trainee Level, to a Tech 3, which is more of a Lead Technician Level.”

The training matrix is made up of different quadrants that focus on a variety of training materials. It utilizes both online training courses and practical, hands-on objectives. Course work includes information on nomenclature and identifying basic tools, understanding drivetrain anatomy and wind turbine anatomy, signaling, rigging, fasteners, torquing, and more. These are all subjects that technicians work on or with on a daily basis.

A big component of the Technical Training Program is the fact that as technicians continue to learn, improve, and progress in the matrix, they are compensated each time they move from one level to another.

“One of the nice things about the program is that when an employee increases their competency through completing the training, there’s a direct compensational increase tied along with that, because they become even safer on the job and they know how to use the tools and the processes that are required,” Citrowske stated.

Offering that compensational increase has resulted in technicians being even more eager to complete the training program because, in layman’s terms, the more they learn, the more they earn.

“Since utilizing this training program, we’ve noticed a dramatic increase in correct terminology, and better understanding with our new hires,” Citrowske stated. “Our managers have said that, through our increased training that we’re doing now, in person and the technical training courses; they have noticed that the individuals that typically excel in the training program are those individuals that are going to be our heavy hitters in the future.”

Citrowske said that the rate in which technicians are able to move up in the program ranges from person to person but that, on average, a tech can progress from a Tech 0 to a Tech 1 in six to eight months, from a Tech 1 to a Tech 2 in approximately 10-12 months, and from a Tech 2 to a Tech 3 in anywhere from one to two years.

“The minimum amount of time somebody could go from the base level to that foreman level would be around two years or a little above that,” he said.

This Technical Training Program is innovative for a myriad of reasons, and it has resulted in higher morale and even safer job sites.

“This training program is not something that we purchased from another company,” Citrowske stated. “We actually made the training materials. We shot the videos, we put together the presentations; we made all of that intracompany. Not only was the curriculum conceptualized with the matrix; we created all of the material internally as well, to make it hyper-focused on our task objectives. And it has been a success.”

Ergonomics at RENEW Energy

At RENEW Energy, safety is our number one priority in all aspects of the job. This is true for RENEW, as well as our sister companies (TP&L, GSS, and Airway Services) and, because of that, we have a strong focus on ergonomics. Ergonomics, according to an OSHA definition, is “designing a job to fit the worker so the work is safer and more efficient.”

Making sure our technicians are safe and efficient is our biggest goal, which is why we spend so much time focusing on various safety aspects of the job, including material handling, body positioning, and ergonomics.

RENEW Energy recently adopted a new standard for safety training, called the Global Wind Organization Basic Safety Training (GWO BST). There are many aspects of this safety training, and it focuses on several different areas, such as first aid and CPR, fire awareness, performing safe work at various heights, and manual handling.

“This training gives us the ability to have some dedicated time to talk to technicians about how to position your body [on a job],” said Brett Citrowske, Director of Training. “Because when you’re climbing up 300 feet in the air, when you’re carrying around or moving around very heavy objects, when you’re working with cranes that are lifting components that are ten to twenty to thirty thousand pounds apiece, you have to 1) know how to position yourself correctly and 2) know when to get out of the way.”

Citrowske said that when technicians are working on a tower, and something goes wrong, the natural instinct is to try and fix it themselves; whether that’s trying to stop a gearbox from swinging, grabbing at a chain that is falling over the edge of a tower, or something else. That natural instinct is to try and stop those things, but 200-pound technicians are no match for 30,000-pound gearboxes.

“The other thing that we’ve been seeing is that, especially with new employees, they want to please so much that they will do things to sacrifice themselves in order to try to complete a mission or a job,” Citrowske stated.

The purpose of the GWO BST is to instill proper safety procedures in technicians, ensuring they know what they can or cannot, and should or should not do while on the job.
“We’ve been teaching this manual handling on how to position yourself when you’re climbing, when you’re working, when you’re down tower, even when you’re off the job…to position yourself in such a way that you don’t cause injuries.”

There are many working parts that go into making RENEW Energy the industry leader in wind energy solutions. But the most important part of our company is our employees, which is why trainings like the GWO BST is so pivotal.

“The number one asset that we have is our people,” Citrowske said. “You can replace vehicles, you can replace gearboxes, you can replace a lot of things. But our people are the most important asset. They are irreplaceable.”