We once had a very difficult engineering project our team at Ulteig was working through, requiring many late nights and many site visits to work through the issues. When we were finished, my manager addressed our group and said, “Do you know what you all have done? You controlled electricity, man!” We all had a good chuckle in light of all of the effort put forth.
It’s funny in part because of the demeanor of this particular individual along with the grueling project requirements, but this is exactly what we do in the power industry. We control the uncontrollable. We see the invisible. These are awesome skills that require a more suitable name. Quite frankly, we need a name upgrade. Something along the lines of, “Power Ranger” would suit us much better.
There are too many negative connotations that come along with the word engineer. To be an engineer, or rather, a Power Ranger, is to probably never be associated with excitement. I will tell you though, that in the last 10 years it has been, to borrow a phrase from my Connecticut-raised manager, wicked awesome to be an electrical engineer.
Let me tell you why this job has gotten so exciting. While the power industry has operated facilities the same way for decades, in the past 10 years we have seen it transform before our eyes. We have wind, solar and energy storage facilities dotted across our landscape, providing power generation free from long-term emissions. Customers have been given more choices on where and how they get their energy, and whether they would like to generate energy on their own. We are reducing greenhouse gases while as a country we are becoming less dependent on foreign energy. It really is an energy revolution. If you can’t imagine a building of engineers having a good time, I would love to invite you to one of our Ulteig offices.
You are probably not going to be able to jump on a hamster wheel, put a net meter on it, and become rich, but I’m not here to deter you. To be frank, who would have thought that little solar panel on your calculator would one day be a viable bulk generation source? When you take a step back, current cutting-edge products are really only old ideas revamped, redesigned and reapplied.
We have seen some really very cool energy projects recently applied in non-typical fashion; from community wind and solar garden projects, to weighted train cars with regenerative breaking for energy storage. We have also recently seen new legislation to apply renewable energy. If you’ve been watching recent news in Minnesota, there has been a lot of discussion around the value of solar, which some say will help support continued distributed solar development.
We are already seeing articles being written alluding to an age of self-sufficient utility customers being able to one day unplug from the grid and never come back. The energy industry is changing, fast. We will see many advances that take our view of energy delivery to a different level. Again, more very cool stuff, right?
Working for a firm dedicated to implementing renewables, I am proud of the work accomplished so far. I take pride in the fact that my industry is doing what it can to make the world a little bit better. Looking forward, the future is even more exciting. I have a lot of years left on this blue and green rock and cannot wait to see how our lives will be changed by new engineering advancements.