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Blog: Internship Summer of 2023 / 2024

Blog: Internship Summer of 2023 / 2024

By Julian Lampen & Michael Everett

Michael and Julian have just completed a ten-week internship at Lodestone Energy, where six of those weeks were spent on-site at Lodestone’s Edgecumbe Solar Farm, and the other four were in the Lodestone office at Takapuna.

On-site time

A key highlight from our onsite time was going out and joining all the different mechanical construction teams at the Lodestone Edgecumbe solar farm and getting hands-on experience putting the solar farm together. This gave us a deep understanding of the different mechanical parts of the farm, and how they get put together.

We were able to interact with a wide variety of people, from the subbies tightening the bolts and digging the trenches through to the site managers. A highlight was being positioned in John Macpherson’s office (the on-site manager). This was an amazing experience as we got to hear a super wide range of things from small day-to-day construction meetings to larger site-wide challenges. John also has an insane amount of experience in the construction field, so it was invaluable to be a fly on the wall and hear the efficient way that he deals with different situations on site.

He introduced us to several interesting construction ideas that are super relevant when building something like a solar farm. These included the idea that building a solar farm is like a production line, but instead of the product moving down the line, the workers move along the product. Simple tasks get repeated thousands and thousands of times, and the key learning here was that saving 10 seconds on one task may seem insignificant, but over the 10,000 times that task gets repeated, that saving has a massive impact on the project. This led us to complete a time-in-motion study where we analysed each highly repeated task in each of the construction teams, and then looked for ways to make them more efficient.

Another key concept John introduced us to was the idea of rework, and how damaging it can be for a project.

Going from studying the electrical single-line diagrams to being out in the field and seeing the physical implementation of the plans was super, super cool and an invaluable learning experience.

Having weekly meetings with Nick Murray, Program Delivery Manager and our supervisor, and others across the business was such an awesome way for us to condense our numerous learnings from the week and to practice our speaking and presenting skills.

In-office time

A key highlight from the office was learning about the money and power economics of the NZ electricity grid. Every day, live spot market pricing data as well as current generation data was displayed on the wall in the office. This meant that we could directly see how the power we were generating interacted with the wider grid (how we were helping NZ match the current electricity demand) and the spot market (how the current electricity prices benefited us economically). It was also super cool to be able to see our daily solar generation curve, and how the time of day and weather affects our output.

We were also able to explore the solar farm through the lens of the engineering drawings and became familiar with the design areas that make up a solar farm. This was super cool as it helped us to understand a lot of the design considerations that went into building (and constructing!! @ John Macpherson) the solar farm we worked on.

We became familiar with the Maximo asset and plant management software, and we worked on grouping all the assets on the solar farm into logical locations. We then had to think about what attributes to record against each asset in order to make the maintenance and management workflow as smooth as possible. This was a great way for us to organise our thoughts and to look at the solar farm from a more general perspective. It also let us learn about every single asset that goes into making a solar farm run, and how these assets interact with each other.

Invaluable experience

A huge thanks to Nick Murray for being so supportive, and for his hands-off and trusting approach towards looking after us. His unwavering support of our solar farm design ideas was awesome and valuable. The freedom you gave us to pursue ideas and learn about different areas of the industry was amazing and such an opportunity for us, so thank you.

To John Macpherson, for his bad jokes, on the nose communication style, and his insane support on site. You are a legend and you have taught us so much. Thanks.

And a big thanks to Peter, Rozelle, and the whole Loadstone office team, thanks for being so patient and willing to answering all our questions – you guys rock. The work environment that all of you have nurtured is amazing, and you’ve made Lodestone such a fun and stimulating company to work at.

Our closing thoughts:

Julian: “Such a sick experience. A key takeaway/highlight for me was the mix of hands-on construction work paired with the higher level, in office, asset organisational thinking. These two experiences were insanely supplementary to each other, and it was such a perfect combo to fast track my understanding of how solar farms work, and how they fit into the wider grid”.

Michael: “This internship was such a beneficial and positive experience. I gained so much, from learning about the electricity grid to the methods and procedures involved in construction. The hands-on work was invaluable and being exposed to such high-level conversations about the management of construction, and the management of assets/locations was incredibly beneficial, especially at such an early point in my career.”

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