Varun Shah goes to great lengths – and heights – to ensure reliability and safety at the wind farm he manages: More than 74 meters above the ground, to be precise, to the very pinnacle of a wind turbine in rural India.
As CLP India Deputy Manager of Operations (Renewable Energy), Varun looks after the 106MW Andhra Lake Wind Farm in Maharashtra. With more than seven years of experience, he is a core member of the team of CLP managers who keep the 874 turbines of our 12 farms across seven states in India performing reliably around-the-clock.
Their work includes climbing wind turbines – sometimes using a monkey ladder, tackling daily problems, and working closely with equipment manufacturers, contractors and communities to ensure everything runs smoothly.
CLP’s wind farms typically run through large tracts of land covering deserts, mountains, and deep valleys and their management poses unique challenges. Annual monsoons and high winds mean that even a routine patrol of the transmission lines can be a risky business.
According to Abhay Potdar, CLP India’s Senior Vice President – Renewables Operations, it is important that the CLP management team closely engages with the contract partners so the wind and solar farms can achieve safe and efficient operations. CLP India currently manages its renewable projects with the help of over 1,000 contract partner staff.
“Managing our renewable projects is challenging since a lot of events happen on our sites every day. Our renewable projects also employ a variety of technologies that require us to work closely with four original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners who come from different cultures and are at different stages of maturity in terms of their health and safety practices,” Abhay explains.
Andhra Lake is a good example. As CLP India’s biggest wind power project in terms of capacity, the farm boasts 133 wind turbines spreading over 194 hectares of land. Due to its complex terrain, road access is challenging – especially during the monsoon period – and extra care is needed to ensure safety for site personnel. To build a robust relationship with the local community, Andhra Lake has made job opportunities available for local villagers depending on their skill levels.
To manage such a huge project, Varun is convinced that apart from strong bonding with the OEM partners, a good relationship with local villagers is as essential.
“To achieve high reliability and safety, we need both,” Varun says.
In January 2017, CLP introduced the Safety Partnership Plan (SPP) across all 12 wind farms and the Veltoor solar project to cut through the demographic, social, and cultural barriers in building a sustainable culture of safety. Under the SPP, which is based upon CLP’s core value of respect for all, CLP managers, OEM partners and the contract partners work together to establish a blame-free and cohesive safety culture.
“This effort is co-owned by CLP and the OEM partners. The SPP fosters and reinforces our safety and environmental standards and helps build a vibrant culture which emphasises the importance of health, safety, security and environment enabling us to achieve all-round operational excellence,” Abhay stresses.
Varun says that close engagement between CLP and its partners, and public recognition of safety champions among the contract partner staff play an important role in making the SPP a success. Working together with the contract partners, CLP managers like Varun regularly identify contributors who have demonstrated positive safety behaviour for rewards and public recognition.
“Our awards play a very important role in motivating the team to ensure 100% work safety at site. The impact of SPP actually goes beyond work and can be seen in the every day’s lives of the people who work on our wind farms. We have achieved our target of zero incidents in the first year of the programme,” Varun says.
Abhay agrees. “Programmes with strong management support such as the SPP and good managers complement each other. Taking into account of the geographical spread of our projects, these two elements are equally important in ensuring a high standard of safety and reliability across all our assets all year long,” he says.