It’s a blazing hot September day in Puerto Rico… the kind of day that makes you sweat the moment you go outside. The air is still and humid like it only is in this part of the world after a hurricane except this was no ordinary hurricane.
Hurricane Maria passed directly over the island only a few days ago and a team of 16 experts from FieldCore and GE are already busily preparing for the arrival of two, TM 2500 aeroderivative gas turbines to arrive by boat. While these units are small in comparison to heavy duty gas turbines, like GE’s industry leading H class, they pack a powerful punch.
Each turbine, based on GE’s jet engine technology, is capable of producing 32MW of power or enough to light about 100,000 homes on the island… that’s important as there is zero power right now.
“When we got there, we had to share rooms at a local hotel because there was no electricity. Everyone knows, Puerto Rico in summer with no power is absolutely miserable,” said John Sharkey, Outage Manager for FieldCore and a 21-year veteran of the power industry.
Beyond hotels, hospitals, shelters, homes and other critical disaster relief infrastructure were without power as well. It was crucial that power be restored as quickly as possible.
Within nine days of being dispatched, the team was ready to “close the breaker” and send power onto the grid.
“It’s a great feeling to know the work you do has such a tremendous impact on people,” said Matt Elwart, Resource Manager, FieldCore, and leader of this incredible team.
Beyond Puerto Rico
While the team received well-deserved accolades for their work in Puerto Rico, it’s hardly the only difficult spot they have served.
Acting as FieldCore’s “Go team” Matt, John and about 20 other experts move out at a moment’s notice to bring power to the corners of the world that need it most. They are the fast power experts bringing to bear trailer-mounted TM2500s wherever they are needed.
They have deployed to remote hotspots like Haiti, Iraq, Pakistan and Ghana where they typically stay at heavily guarded camps to ensure their safety.
“We were in Haiti in 2021 during massive riots. The security team would have to decide each morning how we would get to the plant, by boat or convoy, whichever was the least dangerous,” said Sharkey.
As you would expect, the team works very closely with corporate security to ensure their safety and continually prepare to evacuate if necessary.
“I keep Travis Belleville (FieldCore’s regional corporate security leader) on speed dial,” Matt said. “When we were in Haiti installing two TM 2500s, we had the team practice evacuating via helicopter just to see how it would work. An employee was detained in Angola a few years ago and within minutes of calling Travis, a full team was working on it.”
You might be asking yourself why these experts would subject themselves to such harsh, austere conditions. Well, like many soldiers, they do it for the person on the left and right of them.
“It’s the team that makes this job special. It’s all about the team. Everybody in this group does whatever they can to help each other out. Mechanical experts will pitch in and help the controls folks and vice versa… we all care for each other like a family,” said Sharkey. “I know the people on this team as well as I know my own family. I can order for them in restaurants and know exactly what they’ll get… we’re that close.”
While there are many similarities to the armed forces and virtually all branches of the U.S. armed forces are represented within their ranks, it’s not all war and conflict, it’s also about stability of electricity on the grid, supplementing to meet the power needs of a seasonal spike and more.
“Most recently we’ve been to Switzerland helping provide seasonal power for the winter and in Mexico, giving the people additional electricity during the hot summer months,” Elwart said.
In addition, John and the team supported the first deployment of TM 2500s to support the people of Ukraine this winter.
Think you have what it takes to join the ranks of this elite team delivering power all over the planet when it’s needed most? Good, they’re hiring. The team plans to double in size this year. For more information on joining the team, click here for mechanical technicians, here for instrumentation & controls or here for electrical excitation positions on the team.