While many jobs can be done remotely, operating a power station is still a hands-on job for workers at Peterhead Power Station – and keeping the lights on is critical.
Power stations and gas storage facilities up and down the country are still fully operational, continuing to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity, for people and organisations across the country.
Gary Paterson, a unit operator, has an essential role in the control room at the SSE-run Peterhead Power Station in the north of Scotland.
Stringent social distancing measures have been put in place – including a unique way of keeping the control unit clean for the shift teams.
Mr Paterson said: “We’ve introduced a whole range of social distancing measures at the station.
“At the beginning of each shift we now arrive through a different entrance to those leaving, so that we don’t come into contact with anyone from another team.
“We give written handovers between shifts instead of face-to-face, and where necessary, we provide further information over the phone – all different to our usual ways of working but still delivering.
“All of the keyboards and other devices in the control room are decontaminated and wrapped with cling film at the beginning and end of each shift.
“If any devices have to be shared at any point, we use latex gloves to protect ourselves and our colleagues.”
The power stations are critical to the electricity infrastructure, providing the power the country and the NHS needs to get us through these unprecedented times, so it’s vital Mr Paterson and his colleagues are able to continue working in a safe and controlled way.
He said: “We’re used to stringent safety practices on site – when you are in the energy industry it’s so important – and these new ways of working are just an extension of those measures.”
Fellow Peterhead worker, Ami Singh, and his engineering team, have adapted to working remotely and he believes they will emerge stronger because of it.
He said: “Everyone at Peterhead has rallied together towards the common objective of keeping the electricity flowing.
“Our team of hands-on engineers, who typically spend their time undertaking plant monitoring, inspections, testing and managing projects on site, are all working differently now.
“Working from home has become the ‘new normal’ for the team, and we are using more technology to remotely monitor plant performance and provide technical support to our operators.”
Scheduled outage maintenance is still required to keep the station in top condition and two turbines are undergoing their 8,000-hour inspections.
Kevin Beaumont, lead asset engineer at Peterhead Power Station, said: “In normal circumstances the manufacturer, Siemens Energy, would come to site several times in the run up to the outages to agree the plan and any additional work required.
“However, on this occasion, this preparatory work all had to be done remotely by phone and Skype.
“Siemens Energy now have around 20 personnel on site, and we’ve helped them secure exclusive use of an entire local hotel, providing accommodation and three meals a day, to ensure they can carry out the work while minimising contact with anyone else.
“This inspection and work is critical to making our contribution to the GB electricity system and we’re doing this to continue to provide safe and reliable power and keep us and the communities around us safe.
“There is a lot of work that has to go on across the country to ensure the power keeps flowing and we’re happy we can play our part in the wider efforts to keep the country going in this difficult time.”