If there is one sector that Pattern Energy Group (Pattern) does well, it’s renewable energy. As an expert in the development, construction, and operation of high-quality wind and transmission-enabled renewable projects, Pattern is passionate about securing a greener future, especially for its supply chain.
Supply Chain World had the opportunity to catch up with Senior Director of Supply Chain Operations, Javier Abraldes-Baron, who shares his thoughts on making the supply chain more sustainable, while supporting the overall business to make renewable energy accessible on a global scale.
“Pattern has a dynamic way of doing business, and a passion for new challenges. We’re completing projects that no other company has done before. For example, we’re currently building the SunZia Transmission project, which involves connecting 3500 megawatts of wind generation in New Mexico to Arizona, enabled by a high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line,” shares Javier, adding that this is an undertaking like no other in the Western hemisphere. The project was announced in July 2022, following the acquisition of SunZia Transmission project from SouthWestern Power Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of MMR Group.
According to a press release, SunZia Transmission consists of a 550-mile bi-directional ± 525kV HVDC transmission line between central New Mexico and southcentral Arizona, with the capacity to transport up to 3000 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. “It has over 500 miles of transmission line, so as a company, we take on more challenging projects. By challenging, I don’t mean risky. Rather, I mean we go further than what everyone else is doing,” Javier says.
This is especially apt as Javier is keen to channel the business’ appetite for innovative work towards his supply chain. “Of course, we want to build a sustainable supply chain, which means not only reinforcing the alliances we have, but also helping to develop local suppliers. We have made an excellent effort in the last few years to build a strong network of diversified suppliers across the US and Canada to support our operations.
“This means that when we talk about the energy transition, we’re also looking at bringing new renewable business to remote areas where historically, there has not been a supplier base to provide these services. We want to develop and encourage suppliers to grow as well.”
It’s been a very active year for the energy sector. According to Javier, although the wind power industry is a mature sector in the US, the supply chain still has some catching up to do compared to its European counterpart. “Don’t get me wrong, there have been some brilliant advances in the last year, and we’ve seen some impressive growth in the supply of services for blade repairs, for example, but we still face a massive dependency on Europe when it comes to fabrication and supply of some components.”
Javier further highlights that the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act has increased construction of new wind farms, which has increased pressure on the labor market. “Many technicians are going out to these farms, as a result of the growing demand for labor, and an improvement in retention.”
In addition to rising material costs and labor shortages, the sector is also navigating a digital revolution. When asked about how Pattern is utilizing technology to its advantage to support the US’s transition to renewable energy, Javier responds that this too is an ongoing hurdle. “It links to what I was saying earlier about pushing our supply chain. We’re working on optimization. Instead of having each site manage their own supplies to solve individual needs, we are working on a global solution while still supporting the development of local suppliers.
“We have several initiatives to optimize our supply chain and to support the operation and maintenance of our sites. We work closely with the engineering department to facilitate this strategy, which includes the development of alternative suppliers and direct sourcing. We have also invested heavily over the last few years in technology to monitor our fleet, and that is bringing very good results, so I’m sure we will continue on this path,” he shares.
Although Pattern’s passion for overcoming challenges and encouraging innovation across the organization drives high standards, it has not neglected its company culture. “From the moment I started working here, I knew there was a dynamic spirit. You can tell every team member is proud of the work that is done. There is also a great mix of people here with exceptional experience in their respective roles, which means we’ve brought together the best team.
“There is also a lot of respect and diversity, and not in the sense that the business is ticking boxes, but intentionally hiring industry leaders, technicians, and engineers regardless of where they’re from. As a result, the company has naturally become very multicultural. Take me, for example, I’m from Spain, so we have people from different nationalities and cultures, and they’re all very well integrated.
“One of the other aspects that I really love about the company culture is it’s extremely open to and supportive of new ideas. There is an inherent desire to improve, and that can only be achieved when you hear thoughts from the whole team, rather than only one person’s perspective. I think that is why we have been able to achieve what we have,” Javier elaborates.
With this in mind, the future of the business looks promising. For Javier, the pipeline is full, and he expects a busy year in 2024. “We’re working across a couple of projects to extend the coverage of categories we manage, in addition to optimizing some of the purchases we handle across our fleet.
“We’re also looking at new categories, such as lubricants and electrical components. However, our focus will be on creating a supply chain that serves as a reference for all operation and maintenance needs. If we can master that, the next few years will go really well,” he concludes.