Conversation with Charles Clayton

Charles Clayton Training Manager /Suzlon Wind Turbine Training Center

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Tell us about the training center.

The Wind Turbine Training Center opened October 2011 and is located in Elgin, Illinois, near our North American headquarters in Chicago. Suzlon’s Chicago office is the corporate center for sales, marketing, business development, supply chain services, maintenance and our Suzlon Monitoring Center, which is staffed with technicians and engineers 24/7 to monitor more than 1,800 turbines in North and South America and Europe. The Wind Turbine Training Center features a 4,000-square-foot lab, as well as an 8,000-square-foot facility which houses North America’s only fully operational wind turbine dedicated exclusively for technician training. The Center is also equipped with a powered independent hub and pitch system to allow for simultaneous training on nacelle and hub. The turbine is completely functional and designed for “working-at-heights” and simulating on-the-job experiences working on top of turbines.

How was the decision made to invest in a dedicated training center?

We felt we needed to improve our training and offer fully functional turbines at full-scale to perfectly mimic the real world, and a place we could show employees and customers how to work safely on a turbine. We are able to show them how a turbine system is broken down into smaller, modular systems that support a philosophy of ideally teaching component systems and interaction with the entire turbine. Suzlon training works hand-in-hand with our industry-leading Safety division that has been recognized by our customer Duke Energy with a safety award two years in a row.

What makes your facility unique?

Our facility allows us to apply real world safety scenarios. Safety for all site workers is our paramount goal and we can show trainees how every aspect of the job can be done safely; whether it’s working at heights, electrical or mechanical.  Our facility contains a fully functional turbine, and several training stations. Control of the blade angle is a critical function in any turbine and we have a separate, fully operational pitch system complete with PLC, slip ring and hub system. Stations dedicated to motor control and alignment allows us to introduce concepts, which are then perfected in our live turbine. The turbine serves many functions for Suzlon: teaching safety in a real world environment where our trainees practice every phase of rescue, while our engineering department can use the turbine for research and product improvement. Most importantly, the 2.1-MW capacity turbine allows our technicians to directly apply what is learned in the classroom and on the training stations to the turbine, in an atmosphere identical to what they will see every day on the job.

Our philosophy is that training never stops!  Before any prospective employee can work on a Suzlon turbine they must attend Entry Level training where they will be met with four points of focus: general safety, electrical safety, working at height safety and basic turbine operation. Upon completion technicians go to a site for a period of four months. While on site technicians continue their education by working on an electrical/electronic self-paced training system manufactured by the Nida Corporation.  This system offers complete lessons and a hands on platform to enrich a technicians understanding of electrical principles. New technicians are also enrolled in our e-learning system, which offers more safety and technical training modules. After four months at a site, technicians return to the Training Center for Level Two training.  Level Two offers  extensive work that includes in-depth software diagnostics, line by line schematic training, troubleshooting and understanding software and again, direct turbine interaction.  Module programming and component alignment are also extensively trained. Suzlon’s next module is scheduled at the first anniversary of employment when technicians return for a deep dive into sub-system specialization.  Even in the highest levels, technicians continue learning about software, troubleshooting, mechanical, and system functions.

Most major OEMs have training programs, but I think Suzlon is the only company that insures that a prospective employee comes to the center and masters five levels of validation in the first weeks of pre-employment. If a person fails any part of that training they are not allowed to work for our company. These rigors allow Suzlon the certainty that prospective employees understand the hazards involved in this type of work, the importance of personal protection equipment and the skills they need to be a safe worker. In our company if you work around a turbine you must be knowledgeable in ALL areas, which I think is unique in the industry. We believe as long as a worker is working on any part of the turbine, they need to know how all systems work and how to protect themselves in every situation. Our training is set up in practicable tests that teach a student how to troubleshoot for problems. They are time tested and have three chances to find three problems in the allotted 20 minutes, using schematics.

To learn more: Call (773) 328-5077 or visit www.suzlon.com for more information.