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Changle Yu

SFU Student Undergraduate
Applied Sciences › Sustainable Energy Engineering
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

Organization
Do you know how much percentage of the power that generated by BC Hydro is from clean and renewable sources? It is 98%! What's more, 95% of the population in BC consumes the power generated and delivered by BC Hydro.

In this co-op term with BC Hydro, I experienced the working environment of a hydroelectric utility corporation in BC Hydro's Operations Project and Contract Management team. This post will tell what I learned from this challenging experience and which skills I developed.
Experience Details
Semester
Fall
Spring
Year
2022
2023
Introduction + Preparation

To prepare for the interview, I research BC Hydro, especially regarding the team structure and the electrification plan. (Click on the link to check out the detail on the BC Hydro website!) After accepting the offer, my preparation study for this co-op placement included reviewing the electric machine and circuit analysis course material. These two courses I took previously helped me understand and present technical data about electricity generation and transmission.

Previous Experience

The academic program I am enrolled in is Sustainable Energy Engineering. I took both the thermodynamic and electric machine courses in my second year. The topics of energy conversion and sustainability of power generation attracted me to apply for the position at BC Hydro and explore the industry. Before joining the BC Hydro team, I worked at a product research and development group. The working contents are related to material experiments and testing data analysis. Hence, my previous work term's learning objectives focused on technology adaptation. There was a lot of new knowledge and concepts to learn in that experience. It also helped develop problem-solving skills the team collaboration.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

My tip for future students who plan to work at BC Hydro is to gain project-leading experience. During my co-op experience here, I was encouraged to develop skills of forward thinking and working collaboratively. Project leadership experience can help to learn about team coordinating concepts and make students more confident working with multiple departments. It will be helpful for the interviewer to know about related working strengths if you can elaborate on previous project experience.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

An orientation was held at the beginning of the term with co-op students from all the departments, including Integrated Planning, Operations, Finance, and Cybersecurity teams. Guest speakers from multiple departments presented about safety, business rules, and working environment adaptation. The CEO of BC Hydro also joined the virtual meeting and shared his career experience and growth. It felt great to have an interactive orientation and make connections with the team.

In the first weeks, my supervisor helped me get access to various corporate platforms and signed me up for online learning courses to get familiar with the work. The most impressive training is the cybersecurity one since that session helped me understand the significance of managing cybersecurity risks to our power systems. Besides the training, I also spent time connecting with other colleagues and understanding the job of different teams.

In addition to the online virtual training, the in-person Power System Safety Protection training was informative and interactive. The instructor explains the process of performing work at power transmitting stations with vivid scenarios. This training is more than a requirement for employees and contractors to access the power system. It tells us how to protect ourselves and public assets with proper procedures. Besides the training I participated in, BC Hydro has other learning resources and events to help staff develop skills in information technology, indigenous culture, and environment protection fields.

Learning and Adaptation

The team I work with focuses on equipment that has PCB contaminant risk. PCB stands for Polychlorinated Biphenyls. Electrical equipment such as transformers, capacitors, and circuit breakers with insulating fluids manufactured and installed before 1986 can contain PCBs. Since the last century, many studies have recognized PCBs' potential risk to the ecosystem and physical health. After the implementation of strict PCB regulations, BC Hydro started to remove equipment with concentrations of 50 parts per million or greater from the power system to meet an Environment Canada phase-out deadline of December 2025.

I was not completely aware of these environmental hazards until I got on board with this co-op job. Now I see how much effort BC Hydro has invested to mitigate the impact of PCBs. By learning the business rules and shadowing project managers on the team, I gradually got familiar with the sampling, testing, and equipment phasing-out process.

During the study in Sustainable Energy Engineering, our goal is to minimize the environmental impact of industrial practices such as generating and transmitting power. The connection between my program at SFU and my co-op experience motivates me to learn more about these projects.

Accomplishments and Challenges

In the first co-op term, I supported the hydraulic oil sampling and testing work which had been initiated. This job involves coordination with the station field crews and Powertech Lab chemists. Powertech is one of the two subsidiaries of BC Hydro. It supports many BC Hydro projects in the field of testing and research. The process of getting PCB test results from the lab chemists is not as smooth as I expected since the lab systems are not connected to BC Hydro's systems. On the field side, multiple work orders were carried over due to sampling difficulties and it's hard to track samples. To improve the connection, I contacted the field technicians and checked the status of each sampling work. After communicating with the field team, we know more about the sample delivery time and tag details. The chemists from Powertech Lab could identify and analyze the exact samples with the information we provide.

The active communication with the station field crews helped me with the Generation site Distribution-class equipment PCB verification project that started in the second term. With the help of the engineers and electricians, I got more information about the equipment such as type, manufacturing year, and recent maintenance. Their proficiencies with the equipment save me a lot of time from searching around multiple asset management and tracking systems.

Besides the work related to PCBs, I support other teams in the department as well. The most challenging one is about asset detailing of replaced equipment because there are multiple stakeholders to coordinate with. Asset detailing is a significant process for capital replacement projects. We provide the physical and financial asset record when the installation of the new asset is completed. Proper asset detailing ensures that asset inventory has accurate information about the specific equipment.

I learned that nothing is perfect in the complex project world. My mentor has been a project manager in the utility industry for decades. He taught me how to seek solutions while encountering problems or deficiencies with a patient attitude.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Compared to my previous co-op experience, my working content now is focused on projects instead of individual tasks. Within an integrated team with strong connections with the industry, I am becoming part of the collaborative workforce.

At the beginning of my co-op term, I assisted my program manager with building the outage schedule related to the transformer bushing replacements for the next year. This work is more challenging than I expected. From supplying the material to fit the availability of the contractor team, all the coordination requires proficiency with the process and familiarity with the power system.

In the last few months, I joined two year-end review sessions with the contractor groups. Observing how the program managers summarize the work from multiple perspectives is inspiring. The consideration of safety, scope, and budget is comprehensive. With the analysis of units and financial data in the past fiscal year, the team reviewed the work performance quantitatively and brought in lots of ideas to meet the expectation for future projects.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

While developing my skills and overcoming challenges, I also recognized that my management of progress and time still needs improvement. At the beginning of the second co-op term, I started working on the PCB verification of some transformers with a relatively complicated scenario. During the preliminary desktop exercise on these transformers, I encountered challenges such as vague identification numbers or pole-mounted equipment. I tried to proceed by checking more data from the previous records. The search process was quite time-consuming since I was learning the specification of these transformers alongside. My mentor advised me to gather the existing information and contact the field team. The engineers' and technicians' expertise with the equipment in the stations did help me identify and confirm the status of many transformers in a shorter period. From this task, I learned that seeking help from the right person or team is significant to proceed with the projects. It is also a valuable lesson for my future study since I am going to encounter various new topics or fields in the future

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

This co-op placement is valuable for my future study in sustainable energy engineering and career development. I have to admit that it is a challenging experience that includes a lot of learning. Because of the strong connection between my working content and academic program, I feel more motivated to learn and explore the power utility industry. For future study, electrical engineering and environmental analysis work can enhance my knowledge base for these topics. Practically, this meaningful project coordination experience and inclusive working environment facilitate my communication skill development. The connection with professionals in the industry is an advantage for my career.

Author

Changle Yu

SFU Student Undergraduate
Applied Sciences › Sustainable Energy Engineering
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op
visibility  534
Jun 22, 2023