Constructive Candor

Stop! Read This Before Replacing or Updating Your Hydro Turbines (Part 3)

iStock_000038577356Large_hardhatprojectUpdated June 14, 2016

In prior posts, I committed to an ongoing discussion about issues you should consider before replacing or upgrading an existing hydropower turbine. These are challenging projects which will tax even the most savvy operator. I’ve previously tackled the issues of risk management and remote geography. Other topics in this ongoing series will include:

  1. Risk Management - COMPLETE

  2. Geographic Challenges - COMPLETE

  3. Project Communication

  4. Staffing Capacity

In this third of my four part series I’ll discuss the project communication challenges inherent in complicated hydropower projects. This is a HUGE topic, so I’ll just hit on a couple of major issues to consider.

Project communication is an important factor that must be thoughtfully planned. At a minimum, a communication plan should identify key project stakeholders, propose effective methods of communication, provide for adequate document tracking and archival, and consider responses to emergencies or other unanticipated events.  

Project Stakeholders

Early on in your project communication planning effort, project leadership should identify all key stakeholders. Hydropower projects have diverse stakeholders. Your FERC license (if applicable) might be a good place to start when identifying key project stakeholders. This will allow project leadership to develop effective methods of communicating project progress so interested parties stay informed. Although outside the scope of this post, a formal public involvement program might be also be necessary to properly engage the public for maximum project success.

Another tip is to identify backup leadership contacts for the construction and owner's teams. Contingency plans and a well established set of contacts are key to smooth communications especially when emergencies or time sensitive decisions need to be made. These are important assessments that will guide the remainder of your communication planning process.

Communication Methods

Even the simplest of communication plans should consider the methods that would most effectively communicate to project stakeholders. This may include both high and low-tech approaches. Regular weekly meetings scheduled to communicate progress and to reinforce important project safety information are a simple way to start a project off on the right foot. A larger program might utilize web technologies to communicate project status to a broader audience. It is also relevant that you consider your site conditions and any communications issues associated with the remote nature of your project.

Documentation Tracking and Archival

In a number of projects, we’ve maintained online tools for the tracking and archival of important project documentation. On complex projects, this is a significant logistical undertaking. As one example, we recently undertook a construction program which requires a robust online communication tool to track project documentation for some 600+ users. Although this is an extreme example, online technologies can scale to almost any project size to provide a cost effective solution for up-to-date project documentation.

Emergency Response

Communication in emergency situations can be particularly critical when working in remote locations. Project communication planning should clearly address these situations by identifying key emergency response personnel, emergency response procedures, and proper reporting. It is also critical that you test an emergency response plan before you really need to act on it. I would suggest that you run through a mock emergency situation with your stakeholders and project personnel at the beginning of the project. This will ensure that you’ve tried to anticipate a proper procedural outcome prior to a real emergency event. Other irregular project situations like response to unanticipated environmental impacts should also be considered in any communication plan including the timely reporting of spills of hazardous chemicals and lubricants into waterways.

Again, this is a large topic, which really demands a much larger discussion. My purpose in writing this post was just to identify some of the major considerations when planning your communication strategy for remote hydro projects.  

Regardless of how you tackle project communication issues, proper planning is essential and I cannot stress enough that a detailed plan created up front with buy-in from your stakeholders will pay dividends to the smooth execution of your project. I’d love to hear about your experience managing communications on similar projects. Please feel free to contact me to discuss strategies that would make your project more successful.

To read part 4 in this series, click here.

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Topics: Energy, Energy Generation