#ExplainingEnergy: Producing energy no matter the weather

Martin MacLeod heads up SSE’s Renewables Operations Centre, which controls our hydro stations and most of our wind farms. We asked Martin to explain how difficult winter conditions impact our ability to manage our renewable generation assets.

So how do we manage our assets when we have sustained adverse weather?

The winter really kicked off for us around 5 December last year and across our teams we worked an additional 3,000+ man-hours during the month – and while we don’t want to disrupt the festive period, this year we needed some 90 colleagues on standby over Christmas and New Year.

It’s their knowledge and understanding of both the plant and the issues presented to us that helps ensure safe continuous running of our assets.

So during this past winter, when the weather contributed to less than normal conditions, how were our assets managed?

The Renewable Operations Centre provides the central 24 hour control and response for SSE and we have one constant – we deal with incidents every day in our hydro, pumped storage and wind assets.

When the weather gets particularly bad we are responsible for ensuring the assets work at their optimal levels without causing any environmental issues. To pull that off we are involved in a number of activities; from planning, scheduling, optimisation and programming our plants usage to the actual process of turning plant on and off. We also help National Grid undertake balancing actions (sometimes averaging over 2.3 instructions per minute on our wind, hydro and pumped storage assets) to ensure the lights stay on. On top of that we ensure SSE meets strict environmental compliance rules; action alarms that come in from the stations; and ensure emergency issues are quickly dealt with.

So when every call is made, every event or alarm occurs on sites or when new sites are commissioned – the Renewable Operations Centre has visibility and is actively involved in the decision making process.

We work closely with many external partners including National Grid and the Environment agencies to supports the country and help keep the lights on.