Power Engineers: The People On The Other Side Of The Light
ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP guaranties power generation for the yearly
consumption of more than one million Bulgarian households
They manage huge capacities, produce energy and know how to deliver it to your kitchen stove, your new laptop, the refrigerated display case of your supermarket, or the huge floodlights under which your favorite football team plays. They are power engineers and have chosen their profession, realizing that they will have to study hard at university and face many challenges once they start working. Because power generation means to create warmth, comfort and security for the people.
Sunday is a day off for a number of professions but not for the power engineers. And Sunday, June 21, is the power engineers’ professional holiday. Work follows its normal rhythm even during the holiday beyond the gate of the most modern and environmentally friendly coal-fired power plants in Bulgaria - ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP near Galabovo. The on-duty teams ensure the stable energy production by the power plant which the country’s energy system needs. From the beginning of the year until the end of May, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP has provided 15% of the produced electricity - a quantity sufficient to cover the annual consumption of more than a million Bulgarian households.
The power plant employs nearly 500 people - people with different personal histories but with a joint professional mission. Every day Stefan Kunchev and Andrean Andreev pass through the gate of ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP. Then Stefan heads to the power unit and control room where he is a shift manager only at 28 years of age. Andrean has been working at the repair workshop as electrician and technician for 3 months. “Many people are not aware of the work of the power engineers, says Stefan, who has worked at the power plant for 5 years and is the first power engineer in the family. I thought this profession was interesting, with good prospects for career development and I was right.” He passed a number of tests to become team leader and to make quick and correct decisions in tense situations. The profession is complex and requires a lot of work. Relatives and friends keep asking me, "You're not going to work again, are you." I tell them that if they want to have electricity, someone has to produce it. My colleagues and I are doing this job. This is a way of life and professional love. The most important thing is to do our job and go home alive and well to our families, "says the energy expert.
“Every day is different. You have to analyse the circumstances in a dynamic process and you are constantly looking for the best solution, explains Andrean, who started working at the power plant just before the COVID-19 crisis. He is engaged in accident prevention and routine maintenance activities of the facilities.
Power plants such as ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 are in constant need of specialists. One of the places where they are most often found are universities. The good cooperation between ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3, the Technical University in Sofia, the local authorities and other large power plants in the region marks the beginning of a project that gives a new perspective to local students. Outsourced
training in the master’s progra Heat Energy Power Engineering has been conducted in Stara Zagora for the past four years. Successful graduates get a chance to start work at the thermal power plants of the Maritsa East complex. ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 is one of the main sponsors of the programme.
“A power plant such as ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 which is of structural significance for the energy sector and the base energy capacity in Bulgaria, benefits from such close cooperation”, explains Prof. Totyu Totev, Head of the Department of Heat and Nuclear Energy at the Technical University in Sofia. ContourGlobal completes the possibilities of the curriculum with field internships. People who are already working but want to improve their skills also enroll for the master’s degree program. The power plant even pays for their training.
Currently, coal-fired power plants in the Maritsa East basin provide 40% of Bulgaria’s electricity. During the winter months, this percentage increases to 60%. These capacities are base ones, in fact the backbone of the Bulgarian energy, and due to their maneuverability and technical characteristics are most suitable for maintaining the load and balance of our electricity system. Even the fiercest opponents of coal- fired electricity acknowledge that thermal power plants are crucial for the stability of our energy system and have no alternative, at least for now. This resulted in the government’s intention to fight for the maximum extension of the operation of the Bulgarian coal-fired power plants in the context of the new environmental policies of the European Union and power generation transformations.
Against the background of a turbulent future, in the conditions of a pandemic, and on their professional holiday, the Bulgarian power engineers continue to perform their mission - to produce and supply electricity to Bulgarian homes and industry. Something that the men and women behind the control desks, in the repair workshops, in the warehouses have mastered perfectly. Because the question is not just the survival of the profession but the protection of the national security and the country’s energy independence.
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