28 January 2019
After 20 years of working in factories as an electrician where he applied his expertise across a broad range of products - from chemicals to French fries – Johnny Sinke decided he wanted a much bigger career challenge. This led him to the renewables industry and he joined Vestas as an onshore wind turbine technician six years ago.
Now Quality Manager of the Pre-assembly site of MHI Vestas in Vlissingen, Johnny says he has never looked back with regret. “At a certain point I thought I didn’t want to work in a factory environment for the rest of my career. Straight away I enjoyed working on the turbines, being outside all day – it was an adventure!
“It can be heavy inside the turbines and climbing 100 m wearing 5kg of PPE gear and carrying a 150m rope, but I really enjoyed the exercise and the fact that it is always technical.”
After a few years, Johnny was promoted to being a team leader, where he was overseeing a team of 20 people in south of the Netherlands, providing maintenance services to the turbines and trouble shooting.
Main assembly hub
His latest role – although based ashore – is a switch to the offshore side of the wind industry. He joined Atlas Professionals just a few months ago and within a week of applying, Johnny was named the Quality Manager of MHI Vestas’s new facility in Vlissingen. This is the main assembly hub for at least four offshore wind farms being built over the next few years: Norther (44 8MW turbines), Northwester 2 (23 x 9.5MW) and Borssele 3&4 (77 x 9.5MW).
“I thought moving to this role and over to the offshore wind side is something new and exciting. I felt my experience could fit at MHI Vestas in Vlissingen so I called Atlas and within an hour they rang me back and we started to talk. I went for an interview with Atlas in the Netherlands and a second interview in Esbjerg, Denmark with MHI Vestas. And then within one week I had the job!”
Although Johnny has made the switch to offshore turbines he stresses that the technical principles are the same. “Every turbine has a rotor, gearbox and generator. It is really just the scale – these offshore turbines are enormous.” Johnny is very much enjoying getting to understand this new generation of mega turbines and learning about the new, innovative components.
Liaising with clients
His role involves performing quality inspections and working closely with the offshore wind developers and MHI Vestas. “I am liaising with all parties and keeping them updated and making sure everything is on schedule, as well as checking that the technicians are providing the best quality workmanship.” Each month he also has to meet with the other quality managers in Esbjerg, Aarhus or on the Isle of Wight in the UK.
The Port of Vlissingen is becoming an increasingly strategic location for Dutch offshore wind power plants as a significant portion of future projects are slated to be constructed there. Søren Vestergaard, Pre-assembly Project Manager at MHI Vestas – based in Denmark – adds: “Our experience in the Dutch offshore wind market dates back to 2006, when the first offshore wind power plant was installed. With the new pre-assembly facility in Vlissingen we are pleased to play a role in the creation of local jobs in Vlissingen and have competent professionals, like Johnny, in our team. Atlas has proven to be a partner for us where we can rely on and who understands our values and way of work.”
At the moment, Johnny is busy supervising the assembly of the first four turbines going to the Norther project. The towers, nacelles and blades are due for loadout at the end of January.
Growing with the industry
“I am becoming a specialist in these huge offshore turbines, so who knows what other exciting opportunities are out there!” Much of the offshore wind development is going on in North Europe currently but wind farms are getting underway in Taiwan, the US and all over the world, he points out. “It is wonderful to be involved in this new industry, because you are right at the beginning and can grow with the industry.”
Johnny regularly assists Atlas making presentations about opportunities within the renewables industry at high schools and universities. “I explain to students that there are so many roles, it is not limited to working as a technician in the turbines – there is ICT, logistics, QHSE, warehousing, engineering – there are endless possibilities both on- and offshore.”