Sailing with the wind

Military veterans who work as operators at the BP Wind's Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in Houston answer questions about how military service has shaped their BP career

BP’s wind farms are located in nine U.S. states and those facilities are monitored and supported 24 hours a day, every day of the week by ROC staff from downtown Houston.

The ROC is the central brain of BP’s wind operations across America. During normal working hours, operators at individual wind farms monitor and manage each site. At night, on weekends and during holidays, ROC operators manage the wind farms. The ROC uses advanced technology to centrally monitor the wind farms while working with teams in the field to increase performance, improve reliability and enhance safety.

Three members of the team, Joe Almendarez, Ryan Blaine and Robert Watson, who each served in the U.S. Marine Corps, bring skills and values developed during their military experience to the Remote Operations Center.

In the Marines, you learn to develop a strong attention to detail, everything is important. You also build the mental fortitude and physical strength to work a long shift and stay focused on getting the job done. Those attributes really come into play here at BP

Joe Almendarez

Do the values of military service transfer to the values of working at BP and the ROC?

Almendarez: Absolutely they do. The skills in the military are transferable to what we do here. The ROC itself has almost been an extension of being in the military. There is camaraderie in the Marines and the ROC. You can trust that someone is going to come in and be here to back you up and they trust you are going to do the same for them.

Blaine: The value of teamwork is very important in the military and it is the same here at BP. The other value that is stressed all the time is safety. In the Marines and at BP you think foremost about safety. We want everyone to come home safe.

Watson: The leaders at BP understand the value of military personnel or veterans in the atmosphere of the remote operations center. We know we can contribute to the overall goal of safety because in the Marines we were instilled with paying attention to details and with a strong sense of duty to get the job done.  We don’t like to leave the mission unaccomplished.

I was a watch chief in a command operations center and monitored the entire area that my unit was responsible for, so I had an overall picture of everything, which is very similar to our work here at the ROC. This requires a constant high-level evaluation and that calls for situational awareness and knowing what actions to take if something should occur

Ryan Blaine

You each made such an important contribution to America with your military service. Do you feel that there is a correlation between your military service and the work you are now doing in the ROC?

Almendarez: I feel that I am still contributing to the U.S. I know the power grid has been going through a major change with experienced life-long career operators leaving to a new generation that doesn’t have the same level of experience. But the new generation is eager and ready to take on the challenge of learning everything we can do to keep the power running. Also this is an opportunity to help our country by operating the green energy assets of BP.

Blaine: I do feel I’m making a contribution to America. I’ve served my country while serving in the Marine Corps and performed a public service while being a police officer. To me it is another form of service. My team and I are part of the larger picture of providing electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes nationwide. It always puts a smile on my face whenever I think about someone’s day became better when they turned on their coffee pot as soon as they woke up. A couple other comparisons would be the close working relationship with the rest of the team. We work long odd hours all year and help each other out in time of need in order to make sure we maintain safe and reliable operations.

Watson:  I feel that there are some similarities to what I did in the service and what I do here at the ROC, however the reasons for why I do the work vastly differ. I think America benefits from service members and the things that they bring to the workforce from their time in service, so in that sense, yes I do continue to make a contribution to America. Not because of anything that I specifically do, but just by being another example of the value of a veteran.

My military service helped give me the ability to act decisively and be confident in the decisions that I make. It also allowed me to see a much bigger picture of what I am contributing and how it has an effect on everything as a whole

Robert Watson

Key facts

BP is one of the top wind energy producers in the United States with 16 onshore wind farms with a generating capacity of 1,556 megawatts, enough electricity to power all the homes in a city the size of Dallas

Monitoring systems capture critical and variable factors, such as turbine availability, power generation capacity, market pricing, wind speed and weather. An embedded alarm system immediately notifies operators of any potential problems in the field. The comprehensive view and the ability to control individual turbines allow the ROC to play a significant role in managing risk and maintaining compliance with regulatory agencies around voltage control and electrical power supply. It also provides an opportunity to monitor personnel safety issues at geographically remote locations.

The ROC team monitors a weather map of the entire United States showing graphics about lightning, storms and other weather events as they develop.

Each wind farm is highlighted when storms, tornados, lightning or flash flood warnings come within a certain distance of the farms.

Operators can directly contact the affected sites and advise when workers may need to leave the field or evacuate the site.

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