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Ethan Palay #TeamRenewables

by Rachel Anderson | Jun 02, 2022 | Reading time: 3 min

As RES continues to expand through global projects and maintain leadership in the renewables industry, we have teams dedicated to ensuring operational excellence.

In this #TeamRenewables, we sat down with Technical Manager, Ethan Palay, to learn more about his role on the Support Services Team.

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The Role                                               

Over the last four and a half years, Ethan Palay has been an integral part of RES’ daily operations. Ethan started as an Asset Manager overseeing 24/7 operations for several solar and battery storage plants within RES’ portfolio. Ethan then transitioned into his current role with the Support Services team.                                                                                                                   

Following project completion and commissioning, Ethan’s team manages the real-time operations of assets. He oversees the reporting, analysis, cyber security, networking, monitoring, and SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) for the fleet of RES’ operational sites in the Americas.

“I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work on exciting workstreams with many technical teams across the business,” Ethan said.

Globally, the team is working on standardizing the management of operational sites. Such management includes monitoring, controlling, analyzing, reporting, accessing, documenting, and securing RES’ assets. The team is working to procure or potentially develop systems in house to help provide all these services efficiently and cost-effectively. Once standardized, this system will lay a foundation to allow business units to scale.

The SMART Team

Recently, Ethan worked with RES’ Site Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Tool (SMART). This suite of internally developed software assists in monitoring, analyzing, and reporting on operational sites. Historically, wind was the dominant percentage of RES’ global operating portfolio. RES built SMART to support wind. Initially, solar and storage assets were integrated into the same set of software.

Recently, RES launched a new team to develop SMART Solar for a dedicated suite of software specifically built to support Solar assets. They also have plans for SMART Storage on the horizon.

“This will be an incredible advancement for my team when it becomes available, and I have enjoyed working with the SMART Solar team this year to work towards this.”

A day in the life

“I love working on a breadth of technical initiatives in a rapidly evolving industry. As my boss likes to say, “we are at the tip of the spear” in a new industry and every day comes with new challenges and opportunities.”

Due to the expansiveness of his work, Ethan is always doing something different. In one day, he may coordinate with engineers and do a root cause analysis for equipment failure on one site, collaborate with the RES SMART team to develop new software features on another site and work with the OT team to answer a cyber security questionnaire on a third site. 

“We never really know what will cross our desks in support services. It can feel a bit like whack-a-mole. But I love collaborating with the excellent talent we have here in our team and supporting teams around the business.”

The difference between OT and IT

Operational Technology (OT) is a new team at RES often lumped in with Informational Technology (IT). IT focuses on corporate infrastructure – laptops, Microsoft application suites, conference rooms, printers, etc. – that allows us to do our jobs. OT focuses on the site IT gear that allows us to manage, access and secure our operational power plants and RES Operations centrally managed infrastructure.

Historically, sites were built to be “light touch,” implying, that if it is not broken, do not touch it. Due to new regulations, cyber security threats and global tensions, there is more push to manage sites proactively. Including 24/7 monitoring and response, vulnerability scans, patching, back-ups, access control, logging and more.

We have contracted out OT services to date, but it is cost-prohibitive to provide this level of service using external contractors and or site-specific solutions. RES is currently working on setting up teams and systems to provide these services in-house. Ethan has been working closely with the UK-based team to analyze their current strategies and help expand this internal team and infrastructure into other regions, including the U.S.

What excites you about the future of renewables?

The industry is only beginning to experiment with emerging digitalization technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality to manage operational assets better. RES currently uses 3rd party vendors for drone flyovers of solar assets and machine learning to automatically identify, classify and prioritize issues in the solar array. Future applications of these emerging technologies may include predictive maintenance and augmented reality.

“Wherever our industry decides to go with these emerging technologies will certainly be fascinating.”

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