Ever since electricity was discovered, it has become a necessity in every home and business. Without it, the world known today will plunge into a literal “dark age.”
Power plants around the globe are responsible in energizing residences and enterprises across continents, but just as important as these facilities are the people who run them.
Some plants, especially those with high rated capacities, require hundreds of employees to maintain operations while some require less than ten.
In the case of the 59-megawatt peak (MWp) solar power facility operated by AboitizPower subsidiary San Carlos Sun Power, Inc. (SacaSun), five people are enough.
The SacaSun solar farm sits on a 75-hectare area within the San Carlos Economic Zone in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental. It is AboitizPower’s first solar power generation project and its maiden venture in the Negros Island region.
To an outsider, running a power plant may seem like a daunting task for only five people, but for the team manning the facility, everything is all in a day’s work.
“There are very few mechanical parts to run a solar plant and the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system is automated. The rest of the work, such as maintenance, we just outsource,” John Bryan Landicho, SacaSun’s Environment, Safety, and Health (ESH) supervisor, said.
Since its inauguration in April 2016, the SacaSun power plant has been running with only five organic employees.
The five-man team includes Bryan; Raymond “Rayboy” Rigor who handles Reputation and Compliance; as well as Stephen “Tep” Beboso, Danilo Tarrosa, and Ralph “Rap” Lacaba who are all tasked with operations and maintenance.
Each member has a different story to tell and unique experiences they use to contribute to the whole team’s synergy.
Working with a lean team means each member may have to take on extra roles, something that is apparent with the men at SacaSun.
As ESH supervisor, Bryan makes sure that the plant is safe. At the same time, he oversees operations and maintenance, pollution control, administrative work, and data privacy, ensuring that the plant runs smoothly while his operations and maintenance team concentrates on other important tasks.
Tep, Danilo, and Rap are tasked with operations and maintenance, but since some construction works are still ongoing, they also do quality control to make sure the turnover of the plant will not have any hitches.
Rayboy does reputation management work and community relations on top of his role as compliance specialist. He makes sure SacaSun’s host community is satisfied with the social programs the company implements and receives the support they need.
Among other challenges of a lean team are having a small margin of error and that the absence of one member could have a huge effect on schedules. They also seldom have the opportunity for whole-day team building activities, as one operator always has to be on duty.
On the other hand, there are also upsides to having a small workforce such as versatility, well roundedness, and savings incurred due to a limited number of personnel. What the team lacks in quantity, it makes up for with quality.
“We don’t get to spend much time with each other outside. Even when at the end of each day we go our separate ways, we are all still good friends,” Rayboy, for his part, said.
By working together and using individual experiences that complement each role in the team, they create meaningful contributions to SacaSun and its host community.
While these five men are the ones visible on site, a brunt of the work they do is supported by their “unseen” teammates from Aboitiz Power Renewables Inc. (APRI) in Taguig, Laguna, and Albay.
There really is no formula to operating a plant with a lean workforce. According to the SacaSun team, all it takes is synergy and a whole lot of sunshine.