On a daily basis, more than 700 professionals belonging to Red Eléctrica focus their efforts on looking after the infrastructure and facilities used for the transmission of high voltage electricity. They are the people who carry out maintenance work on lines and substations out in the field, often in adverse weather conditions and in areas that at times are very difficult to access. Their objective? Ensure that electricity reaches every home.
Their day-to-day work focuses on ensuring the correct and smooth operation of the national electricity grid which consists of more than 44,450 km of line circuit. These professionals perform non-programmed as well as annually scheduled maintenance tasks that enable them to anticipate future operating risks that may be caused due to incidents, or in the event of system failures.
But they are not deterred by bad weather nor by the time of day: “Every day, 120 professionals are standing by to deal with whatever may happen throughout Spain. With their mobile phones at the ready and their vehicles ready to roll so they can promptly react as soon as news of an incident is received or in the case their intervention is required”, said Elena Nogueroles, Manager of Lines Maintenance department.
With challenging climatic conditions, gaining access to where the facilities are located can be the most complicated challenge: “Sometimes, given the difficulty of the access routes and roads, it is necessary to use a helicopter to fly over the entire line and verify that it is OK,” stated Ricardo Barberá, who works in the Company’s Eastern Regional Area.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going
Sometimes we are faced with very extreme weather conditions, with snow, fog and wind, and you simply cannot use any type of vehicles to access the facilities. Sergio Pérez, who works in the Company’s Northern Regional Area, stated that “sometimes we have to walk for two or three hours with snowshoes just to get to a specific tower in order to see the extent of the fault”.
Ricardo Barberá stressed that, in these situations, "Safety is paramount: Not only the safety of Red Eléctrica’s professionals, but also to ensure that the adequate measures are taken to guarantee the safety of people or services that are in the vicinity of where the fault is located”. Full coordination with special emergency crews and with the various State Security Forces is key to carrying out the work efficiently.
In these situations, "the commitment of professionals and the confidence within the team are crucial" because in the case of a fault or breakdown "time is of the essence and everyone has to do their best", commented Sergio Pérez, who has been travelling along the high voltage lines in the north of Spain for 15 years to ensure they are all operating correctly.
"Once we arrive at the facility," continued Elena Nogueroles, "it is necessary to analyse the extent of the breakdown to determine if the electricity circuit can be restored, assessing the possible immediate but provisional solutions, which then require subsequent maintenance. If there is no possibility of restoring the circuit without replacing materials, the manufacturing process of the necessary materials/elements is managed to ensure they are ready to be installed as soon as possible”.
Coordination and communication: the recipe for success
In these situations, it is vital to "make every piece of information we have available to all professionals so that they may work as swiftly as possible", said Ricardo Barberá, who says that establishing fluid communication between the professionals in the field and Red Eléctrica’s Head Office “is a guarantee of efficiency and speed".
Using Madrid as their coordination centre, Elena Nogueroles and her team try to support field professionals in their task: “We try to make life easier for them, by carrying out logistical work to procure them with the material, human and technical resources they may need at any time”, she stated, and concluded by saying "but without their ability to deliver and their professional expertise we would not solve anything".