Agile maintenance

Operations Department
Tsuyoshi Suzuki
Completed a degree in electronic engineering and joined RENOVA in 2018
  • #Mid-career
  • #Department of Electronic Engineering
  • #Operation
  • #Previous job: Energy Company

Question 01 / 06What is your current job?

Currently, RENOVA operates power plants at 12 locations across Japan. I am mainly in charge of the maintenance of the solar power plants. My duty is the centralized management of power plants all over the country, to create systems to increase the safety and stability of operations, and to manage them to ensure they operate trouble-free every day, and to repair them if a problem occurs.

Because it is impossible to patrol all of the solar power plants every day, I usually obtain information from cameras, meteorometers, and similar devices installed on site to check for abnormalities. All of the solar power plants operated by RENOVA are large. The suspension of the operation of any one of them will have a large impact. Therefore, we must handle problems quickly and appropriately, as well as conduct preventive maintenance. We need to perfectly understand the characteristics of each power plant based on data obtained daily, to ensure a more accurate understanding of what is happening at each power plant. I make efforts daily to have comprehensive understanding of those power plants by visiting the sites as often as possible.

Question 02 / 06What do you value?

The operation of power plants is made possible through the cooperation of management companies. This applies to not just RENOVA but also to other companies. Communicating clearly with the people from these management companies is very important in creating a framework for maintenance and the handling of problems.

Engineers from the management companies in charge of maintenance are quite reliable because many of them have more extensive experience than I do. However, if we only rely on them, we cannot create our own unique systems or handle problems in our own way.

Therefore, I visit sites frequently, sometimes starting work with them in the morning, in my efforts to build daily relationships with them that are not superficial, win their trust, and facilitate communications with them.

This has enabled us to work as one to build an even more robust structure and has enabled me to ask them to teach me things from time to time.

Question 03 / 06What are the good points of RENOVA?

One good point is that we are pursuing the possibilities of renewable energy and forging ahead toward the future. This forward-looking attitude is also reflected in maintenance. For example, we installed not only cameras but also meteorometers at our power plants to obtain real-time information every day. We also fly drones equipped with infrared cameras to check for abnormalities in the temperatures of solar panels. Both of these are included in the initiatives that we have launched recently. I suggested them, and my superior green lit them immediately. I was also in charge of the maintenance of solar power plants at my previous company, but there are not many power plants with maintenance systems this advanced. To create systems that support large power plants, which are expected to continue growing, we need to apply new technologies and ideas instead of only using those that have already been introduced elsewhere. This is exactly where the skills we have as the standard-bearer of renewable energy are tested. I would like to continue moving forward.

Question 04 / 06What did you think before joining RENOVA? What do you think now?

Before I joined RENOVA, I wanted to be involved in the maintenance of a large power plant that was unprecedented in Japan. This is exactly what I am doing now, and, as expected, I find it personally rewarding. If the plant is large, naturally, its breakdown will result in a huge loss of power. This makes management and the speed of recovery from problems even more important. Therefore, I feel a strong sense of responsibility in my work.

Recently, typhoon Hagibis made landfall in Japan, devastating parts of the country in October 2019. RENOVA’s solar power plant in Futtsu, Chiba was partially damaged in the disaster. I left my home for the site early in the morning of the day after the typhoon had moved on. Expressways were closed, and surface streets were heavily congested. I finally arrived at the power plant just before noon. Fortunately, the plant suffered little damage and we could resume operations ahead of others because RENOVA’s power plants are designed and built assuming a certain level of impact from storms and flooding. In this way, I was mentally prepared to take actions immediately in the event of a problem. This is my current mental attitude toward my job. I feel that I am playing a very important role at the company.

Question 05 / 06What is your future career plan?

At the power plants operated by RENOVA, we are rapidly advancing the visualization of information to create a more robust maintenance structure. For example, the use of drones has enabled us to check for abnormalities in 160,000 solar panels in two or three days when previously this task would take us several weeks. Highly accurate remote monitoring is possible if we appropriately handle the data obtained from various perspectives based on our on-site experience. We have also enhanced the system that enables the centralized management of our power plants from our office. I will continue to work in a forward-looking manner to create RENOVA’s unique robust systems, so that we can maintain the high quality of our renewable energy power plants even after we begin the full-scale operation of large wind, biomass, and geothermal power plants, in addition to our solar power plants.

Question 06 / 06Could you give a message to the people who are interested in joining RENOVA?

The term “maintenance” may lead people to think of it as a defensive job. It is true that our job is defensive. At RENOVA, however, we are required to create systems for the job and respond to small daily changes quickly and appropriately without overlooking them. Therefore, we are required to have the ability to look at things from various perspectives. If you can look at things only from one single perspective, you are unable to explore the causes of the diverse problems you encounter by changing your approach on a case-by-case basis. If you try something and fail, you should change your approach and think again from a different perspective. You should make it a rule to question and doubt everything, instead of making blind assumptions based on preconceived ideas. While agility is also important in responding to problems promptly, you also need to be level-headed, and not take action immediately. Collect objective data instead of starting to work on the problem immediately. I think that only when you take these steps you can steadily accumulate positive results.

As of 2019