A Worksite as big as the World

Published on Wednesday, 8 February 2017

“Every day, more than 1,100 people, coming from various countries and professional backgrounds, populated the plant sites under construction in 14 countries on 5 continents.”

This new capacity built last year is a record: we more than doubled the target reached in 2015. Every single member of the Engineering & Construction (E&C) team has been like the final point of a collective effort throughout Enel Green Power.

Using the figures of new built capacity and the number of members of the global E&C team, it’s as if each one of them brought almost 2 MW of clean energy each into 2017. This is an ideal and approximate calculation, but it helps to give an idea of the incredible effort made in the 366 days of the past year, which continues day-to-day even now.

When a Worksite Becomes a Challenge

When it comes to worksites and the construction of solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal plants, it’s easy to imagine a stretch of machines and cranes in movement, the kilometres of electric cables to lay, the photovoltaic panels or the wind blades waiting to be installed. It’s more difficult to understand the daily work, the conditions in which the swarm of humans and machines work: it’s anything but routine.

“In order to construct a plant for renewables, sometimes you need SPF 50 sun cream, sometimes igloo tents for extreme cold, sometimes thigh-high boots, like those for fishing in the middle of a river.”

Those working on the construction of the Cerro Pabellón geothermal plant in the Atacama Desert in Chile, the first in all of Latin America, are exposed to some of the highest solar radiation on the planet, They’ve learnt to deal with breathing thin air, low in oxygen, at over 4,000 metres of altitude, and to live with gusts of wind that can lift a person off the ground.

At the site of Waseca, one of the 16 open worksites for the construction of the Aurora solar field, our largest photovoltaic plant in the USA, technicians and workers had to deal with torrential rain bringing more than two million litres of water to the earth in 24 hours – a record never before seen in the last 1,000 years of Minnesota’s history – and with temperatures of -30°, made even harsher by wind and continuous snowfall.

The Hidden Secret Behind the Numbers

When a new plant is completed, the press release that announces the closing of the worksite and the achievement of the target reports the investment made, the installed capacity, the clean energy it can produce, the CO2 emissions it can prevent, the number of households it can bring electricity to. All important numbers that tell us a lot, but not everything.

“Every single plant, from the smallest to the largest, wherever it is in the world, is above all the day-to-day story of people, of hard work and of challenges met.”

To respect the schedule, ensure safety at the worksite and contain construction costs, we need effective processes, well-planned operational tactics and efficient and cutting-edge instrumentation. But we also need to know how to cope with extreme weather conditions, deal with last-minute unforeseen circumstances every day and work in a team like few others in the world can.

Underlying every project and every record, including the one set in 2016, there is always the same factor: more than 1,100 people, hard work and passion, every day.