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January 23, 2023

Applying Old Knowledge to Fix New Problems

When the retirement of Pirkey plant was announced in November 2020, Paul Chodak, executive vice president, Generation, told plant employees that there were many ways to continue their career with AEP and one path was via a career in renewables because they were going to be a big part of the future of generation.

James Hasley, an equipment mechanic at Pirkey at the time, took Chodak’s words to heart and started researching what options might be available to make the switch to the wind farm. When a position opened up at the Maverick Wind Facility, which is part of AEP's North Central Energy Facilities, he applied.

Hasley received the job offer as a wind technician sr., moved his family to Oklahoma and started to settle into his new position.

“During my time I worked at Pirkey, I didn’t have any experience with the electric delivery side. I mostly dealt with the coal delivery side of things. There were several job responsibilities with this new role that were going to be a lot different from what I had been doing that I was unsure about. However, once I went through the training for the turbines, I definitely felt more comfortable,” Hasley said.

“We’ve had a few employees join the North Central team from the fossil plants,” said Brian Goodwin, renewables regional manager. “When they made the switch to wind, it was only natural for them to wonder how the skills they developed at the plants would translate to working on wind turbines. Once they settled into their jobs, every one of them realized just how easily those skillsets could be adapted. We are really starting to see the value add to the team. Case in point, one of the first things I noticed with James was that when he sees something, he attacks it.”

Several of the turbines at Maverick, and at Traverse, had stopped working. The problem was a hydraulic pump that needed to be replaced, and it could take months to receive the parts needed to fix the turbines. 

“I was tired of coming to the facility every day and looking at the units that weren’t turning. I got permission to remove a pump and bring it down from the top of the tower,” Hasley noted.

Hasley, who had a strong background dealing with hydraulics at Pirkey, found that there were a couple of screens that were jamming and rebuilt the unit. He asked one of the employees from Invenergy, who built the wind project, if they could install the repaired unit in the tower to see if it worked. They agreed, and the fix worked, and multiple turbines were repaired and returned to service. 

He then shared how to make the repairs with the other team members, developing a standard work which he delivered during a lunch and learn with Invenergy to educate them on how to make these repairs on the tower.

“James figured out how to repair these pumps and return numerous turbines to service with just a few days of work,” said Dave Hoffman, managing director, Renewables. “With the turbines inoperable, it was limiting our customers’ access to low cost, clean energy from our wind farms. James found a way to get these units back up and running months ahead of schedule, saving our customers money. I can't say enough good about the employees here and what they have been able to accomplish. James’ example is one of many where we are ensuring our customers get the value from the North Central wind farms.”

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