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Learnings and aspirations from an industry expert : A Q&A with Mike Young

11th January 2023

Mike Young has worked in the offshore wind industry all his professional life. After 15 years in operations, he has decided to make the jump into software, joining Sennen as a senior consultant. We caught up with Mike to find out how the industry has changed, what lies ahead and what has inspired his latest career move.

Tell us about yourself. What do you do and how did you get here?

After leaving school, I completed an electrical/mechanical apprenticeship working with industrial refrigerator systems. I then moved to Vestas as a service technician which I really enjoyed as it was exciting to be working offshore with big machines and solving technical challenges. While at Vestas, I moved into site management and worked on the Kentish Flats and Thanet wind farms. 

In 2014, I joined Dong Energy, which is where I first met the Sennen team at London Array. At the time, I was managing the 175-turbine site and all of the contractors working on this complex project.

It was great to meet like-minded people who were committed to making the wind farm more efficient, but using virtual tools rather than physical ones to achieve this.

I left London Array in 2020 and went back to Vestas for a time, managing all the equipment associated with building wind farms, and then I moved to RES, where I managed high-voltage networks on solar farms. 

I had always kept in touch with Sennen and had experienced first-hand the value of what they do, so when an opportunity arose to join the team, I didn’t hesitate. 

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

What attracted you to the role at Sennen?

I’ve always enjoyed being closely connected to the machines and working out how to get the best out of them. Having been in operations for all my working life, I have experienced the pains of running complex sites.

I saw how things dramatically improved when Sennen’s software was introduced at London Array. After a few months, we began to see meaningful results such as improved turbine availability. We previously had a range of contractors all focusing on their own work scopes rather than seeing the bigger picture. Sennen changed all this – it identified the problems we had on site and created a solution.

My role at Sennen still allows me to be close to the workings of the turbines and it’s still a technical job. I’m using all those skills but applying them in a different context.

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

Tell us about the new role. 

I’m a senior consultant and I am drawing on all the knowledge and experience I’ve developed over 17 years in the industry to build connections between Sennen and its customers to ensure the software is exactly meeting the needs of wind farm operators. I know exactly what the software can do so I can help customers embed it and I’m also bringing that operational site-based knowledge in-house which will be useful from a product development point of view.

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

What is the key challenge in managing an offshore wind farm?

Safety has been, and will remain, the highest priority. As the size of the turbines and the wind farms themselves increases, HSE issues become more of a challenge. Systems like Sennen allow the operations manager to rest assured that safe systems of work are effective. Getting safety right is crucial, not just for staff welfare but also for maximising wind farm performance.

Understanding asset performance in granular detail helps achieve this. If we are able to record every aspect of the operation, we can analyse how to make processes safer and more efficient, and ultimately streamline costs.

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

Are there particular achievements that you are proud of?

I would like to think I’ve added a practical reality to all the sites and projects I’ve worked on. When I first started as a technician, we did not have the Wind Turbine Safety Rules. When they were first introduced, there was a resistance to adopting them as it was assumed they would slow down work and reduce efficiency. From the beginning I could see their value, not just for improving safety but also in standardising procedures and ultimately improving efficiency. I took a lead role in championing their implementation.

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

Can you share any anecdotes of how you used to get the job done?

In 2005, we used paper work books to record where we had worked, what we had carried out and the parts we had used. The pink copy would go to the office and the blue into the site folder. I’m not sure how any analysis was ever completed in this way. We would often visit a turbine suffering from a fault previously diagnosed but would have no history. We would each discuss the faults in the morning on the vessel, creating our own local FAQ. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before a CMMS was introduced that allowed much improved knowledge sharing.

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

Looking ahead, what are the key challenges for the industry?

A big issue is resource – getting the right people with the right skills and knowledge as the industry scales up is going to be difficult. The practical challenges posed by bigger turbines located further offshore are also significant. As wind farms become increasingly more remote, teams are going to be more reliant on digital systems. Operators have to be totally focused on being efficient and operationally aware which means they need visibility of their teams and what they are doing. Every missing minute counts. If a 15MW turbine goes down and it’s because of a bad operational decision, the impact is big.

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

How can Sennen help solve this?

I can say from personal experience that having a system like Sennen’s is truly transformational. It will effectively eliminate unsafe working and get the maximum value from precious time and resources. It was exactly what I needed as an operations manager and I’m looking forward to showing others what it can do.

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

What are you enjoying about the role?

Sennen is such an exciting place to be. It’s totally dedicated to the renewable energy cause. The culture is very open – there are lots of ideas and people work collaboratively. When it comes to customer service and the products that Sennen delivers, the team is committed to providing a fully customised solution to the actual problems that have been identified.

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

What excites you about the future?

Offshore wind is a really exciting sector to work in at the moment. There are loads of new projects on the horizon in countries across the globe. Through my work at Sennen, I am part of a team making real improvements to the safety and efficiency of wind farms which is hugely rewarding.

Mike Young, Sennen Offshore Wind Senior Consultant

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