A Love for Problem-Solving

Justin Webb loves to figure things out.Silicon Valley Power Generation technician wearing a hard hat with the DVR power plant in the background

After earning a degree in industrial electronics, Justin soon put his problem-solving skills to the test while working at Loma Linda University Medical Center as a central utilities plant technician. One day, a damaged power pole took down the power plant that provided electricity and heat to the hospital. To make matters worse, the black-start generator for the plant failed to start. Justin had four hours to restore steam for heating before hospital staff would have to evacuate patients for health and safety concerns. Thinking on his feet, he was able to jump-start the black-start generator using the engine from a forklift and electric scooters that had 12-volt batteries. He remained calm under pressure and was able to restore power to the generator, plant and hospital.

Justin’s love for problem solving is what attracted him to a career in utilities. After spending five years at Loma Linda University, Justin worked at Calpine, a wholesale electric company, before joining our team at Silicon Valley Power. He has spent the past three years as an electric utility generation technician. In this role, Justin flexes his problem-solving muscles by ensuring that all systems at the Donald Von Raesfeld (DVR) Power Plant are operating correctly both physically and chemically.

“I really enjoy the troubleshooting aspect of my job,” Justin said. “It’s so fulfilling and satisfying when I am able to quickly identify and solve anything I may discover during my inspections.”

Justin also regulates the electrical generation at the DVR power plant, raising and lowering the output of the gas turbines based on demand from customers. He is part of a team of 17 people who all find satisfaction from problem-solving at work. “My team is so knowledgeable, cooperative and fun to be around,” Justin said. “I couldn’t think of a better crew to work with!”

On the weekends, Justin can be found in the outdoors with his wife and two young sons. They enjoy traveling the Sierras for hiking and camping, as well as spending hot summer weekends at the beach. Justin and his wife are currently training to hike Half Dome in Yosemite in the spring. After completing Half Dome, their next goal is to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States.

From the Azores to Santa Clara

Paulo Apolinario holding a soccer ball with his son and daughter standign next to him on a soccer fieldLess than 1,000 miles off the coast of Europe lie the Azores, a small, Portuguese island chain known for its beautiful landscapes, relaxed lifestyle and delicious cuisine. These islands are paradise for any visitor, but they hold a special place in Paulo Apolinario’s heart.

“The Azores are my favorite place in the world,” explained Paulo. “My family is from the Azores – my dad is from São Jorge Island. Whenever I go to the Azores, I feel a strong connection to the land and my family. They are isolated islands in the middle of the ocean, so you are able to escape from the rest of the world and live life at a slower pace.”

Back home, Paulo lives in San Jose with his wife and two kids. He has always lived in the Bay Area, even attending Santa Clara University. After college, Paulo pursued a career in the health care industry, working for Kaiser Permanente in San Jose. But when a job opportunity working for us at SVP presented itself, Paulo jumped at the chance to join our team. He felt that our utility was the perfect place for him to apply his educational background in economics to his career, while working where he is constantly learning from his peers, growing professionally and contributing to California’s energy future.

Paulo originally joined our team as a power system scheduler and trader. In this position, he learned how the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) power markets and the electrical grid operated. He was responsible for forecasting, scheduling, purchasing, selling and managing electric resources in the hour-ahead and real-time markets. Today, Paulo works on a small team as a senior resource analyst, working on energy resource planning and procurement. He makes sure that future potential resources work well with the mission, vision and values laid out in our Strategic Plan.

“My job is really interesting because I am able to evaluate potential new resources to see if they would be a good fit for the utility. It is thrilling to be a part of something that contributes to the future of the utility – it keeps my job exciting!”

Outside of work, Paulo can be found spending time with his two children. They bond over sports – his son is a competitive soccer player, while his daughter enjoys taking swimming classes. This past summer, Paulo was able to take his children to the Azores for the first time. “They had never been before, so I was excited to be able to show them around and let them connect with their heritage.”

A job that was meant to be

Craig Lindquist has always enjoyed hands‑on work. He spent his early life dreaming of aCraig Lindquist photo skiing career that would both allow him to work outdoors and give him a sense of excitement. One day, some friends from his volunteer firefighting team told him about their jobs working as lineworkers. Craig was immediately intrigued and knew that this was what he was meant to do.

He began his tenure in the utility industry at PG&E working in its gas department, but he soon switched over to the electric side of the business to pursue his dream of becoming a lineworker. Once his mentor left PG&E for a job with us at Silicon Valley Power, he started to research our organization.

Craig loved what he found – he was amazed that we are able to provide a significant amount of electricity to major Silicon Valley companies while maintaining the feel of a small, family‑owned business. “Silicon Valley Power is the type of family environment I was looking for in a job,” reflected Craig. “I wanted to do the job that I loved while working for an organization that still feels like a ‘mom and pop shop’.” It was obvious to Craig that joining our team would be his next career move.

Craig has now been a part of our utility for 16 years. He currently works as a crew foreman, traveling to major job sites to coordinate with contractors and our crews to keep projects running smoothly and efficiently. In this role, Craig is also responsible for overseeing the safety of 30 lineworkers each day. He appreciates the fact that his job lets him serve as a leader and mentor to the younger team members, but occasionally still elects to climb electric poles himself to feel that same sense of excitement he was looking for when he first joined the industry.

Craig’s adventurous, outdoorsy tendencies extend outside of work. “I love to golf, go to the beach and ski. I also ride motorcycles – I am in the process of building a motorcycle that is going to be in a show, and I hope to take it to race at the Bonneville Salt Flats Race Track [in Utah].” His sense of adventure has also taken him around the world to South America and Europe, with Japan and New Zealand next on his travel bucket list.

There’s No Place Like Home

While Ted Salazar’s previous jobs took him around the world to Europe and China, his Ted Salazar with SVP Logo Signfavorite place is Santa Clara, California. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Ted settled down in Santa Clara with his wife in 1998. He always wanted to work for Silicon Valley Power, and was ecstatic to join our team in 2018.

Working here at SVP is an ideal job for Ted because supporting the electric grid is a dream come true for him. As an SVP electric program manager, Ted works together with his fellow team members to maintain and update Santa Clara’s electric utility system. He loves that his job enables him to learn something new from his coworkers every day, who he considers experts in their respective fields.

Although Ted is new to the utility sector, his background in electrical engineering and electric systems makes him an asset to our team. “I have designed and managed hardware, software and firmware product systems my entire career,” explained Ted. He has led cross‑functional industrial product system design teams for the majority of his career, both in the United States and abroad. His past team together designed the future technology solutions that companies needed for next‑generation products, like distinctive water and electric meters, unique firewalls and the world’s smallest programmable logic controllers and sensors. These products are similar to the type of equipment utilities use every day.

Ted is a self‑proclaimed “geeky athlete”. He played baseball throughout his childhood and was even invited to try out for the Colorado Rockies. And today, when Ted is not at work, he loves to take advantage of the great activities his backyard has to offer. He enjoys making an annual 5.3‑mile, 2,490‑foot‑elevation biking trip up Montebello Road in Cupertino with coworkers, friends, and family bold enough to tackle the ride.

At the end of the day, Ted is a family man. When sharing some of his favorite moments with his family, Ted included, “my wedding day, the day my son first beat me in a running race, my middle daughter having the courage to drive the car and my youngest daughter teaching herself how to solve the Rubik’s Cube.” He appreciates that his role here at SVP allows him to spend as much time as possible with his family.

Keeping It in the Family: Growing A Career and a Community Network at SVP

Working in the utility sector runs in Shreya Kodnadu’s family. Growing up, Shreya machu picchu - shreya solovisited substations and generation facilities in Bangalore, India, where her father worked. She took this passion with her to her undergraduate studies in Bangalore and then to Washington State University in 2010, where she received her master’s degree. Then, after more than three years as a protection engineer at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman, Washington, and a stint at Pennsylvania Power and Light, Shreya joined SVP in 2016 as a protection electrical engineer.

At SVP, Shreya works on programming and testing protective relays and analyzing power outage data. In her daily role, Shreya performs power system studies, compiles data to makes complex calculations and analyses, and troubleshoots problems with utility equipment and facilities. She loves that her job focuses on safety, reliability and helping the community. Shreya explained, “My favorite part of the job is working for the community. I can make a difference and see how my work directly affects Santa Clara residents and businesses.”

With the strong relationships Shreya has built at SVP, she is happy to be a part of the SVP family. “Not only is SVP serving Santa Clara residents and businesses, but I really enjoy the tight‑knit community at work. I continue to learn from and enjoy the company of my amazing colleagues. Collectively we work toward the same mission. That is why I love coming to work every day.”

When Shreya is not at work, she enjoys traveling and exploring the great outdoors. Shreya shared, “I love taking advantage of the outdoors, both locally and abroad. In 2015, my husband and I went on a six‑day backpacking trip to Machu Picchu, Peru, and I loved every moment. We look forward to our next backpacking adventure in Patagonia this winter.”

A Passion for Teaching: Mentoring Peers from Silicon Valley to Suriname

Fourteen years ago, Dawid Coetzee, one of our electric crew foremen, moved to the U.S.SVP Lineman Dawid Coetzee with his two young sons holding fish in front of their boat on a lake. from South Africa and fell in love with the adventurous, fearless nature of the jobs performed by lineworkers. As he became more experienced, he joined our team and eventually was made the leader of his own crew. The role is a natural fit for Dawid, who enjoys teaching and mentoring. Working for SVP has given him the opportunity to assist Santa Clara’s residents and businesses, his crew members and faraway communities.

As a utility worker in Santa Clara, Dawid enjoys being part of a power-intensive, technology-driven community that maintains its small-town values. Today, he builds and maintains power lines throughout the region with a tight-knit, 20-person team.

An experienced electric worker, Dawid serves as a thoughtful and caring mentor to the new apprentices in the organization. The long duration of a multiyear apprenticeship combined with the challenges of electric work make this a tough program for lineworkers in training. Dawid takes these individuals under his wing and teaches them not only how to complete tasks but also tricks of the trade so they can do well in their roles. He enjoys finding something new to learn or teach at every job site, no matter how big or small.

Dawid takes this same teaching approach beyond the Santa Clara community. Earlier this year, he traveled to Suriname, in South America, to host a safety training for local lineworkers and share his best practices. During the trip, he met lineworkers who were tackling extreme conditions in the Amazon with very few resources. The experience gave him a new perspective on his work, and he hopes to return to Suriname next year with new training that is specific to the needs of the country.

In his free time, Dawid enjoys traveling to the Eastern Sierra mountains with his wife and kids to camp, swim, fish and boat. His love of the outdoors brings him to the mountains and the ocean on a regular basis, giving him to time to explore California’s diverse natural environments.

Making waves as a power engineer

ChrisKarwick2At twenty-three years old, Chris Karwick was working as a merchant marine engineering officer aboard a commercial ship in Antarctica when he found himself in a perilous situation: The ship had become trapped in a thick sheet of ice due to engine failure. Days passed with no solution, and Chris, a manager with several direct reports, was asked for advice and direction. Together with other crew members, Chris helped organize a makeshift repair to the engine that allowed the ship to break free from the ice pack and be towed safely to New Zealand.  

High-stakes experiences like this have shaped Chris’ ability to think quickly on his feet and communicate in tough situations. After traveling the world, Chris decided to settle down in Silicon Valley and bring his engineering and leadership talents to the utilities and power generation sector.  

In his role as the Division Manager of Power Generation, Chris oversees our power generation assets inside and outside of Santa Clara, such as the Donald Von Raesfeld Power Plant and the Stony Gorge Hydroelectric Facility. On a day-to-day basis, he makes sure that power is produced and dispatched properly, that our operations meet environmental standards, and that the power generation staff maintains a safe workplace. Building off his past experience managing others, Chris enjoys helping his team members develop their skills.  

In his free time, Chris loves spending time with his wife and two kids in Santa Cruz camping, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors. He rekindles his sense of adventure as often as possible and tries to pass on his love of travel to his children.

 

Sparking Inspiration in Silicon Valley

Jeff Duncan of Silicon Valley Power in front of a ladder that leans against a utility pole.An adrenaline rush – that’s what a coal mine electrician experiences every day. The tough working conditions and challenging electrical problems in a mine test one’s endurance and ability to solve problems under pressure.  

After succeeding in this demanding workplace, Jeff Duncan was up for a new adventure. One year ago, he switched from the coal industry to the utility industry and moved to Santa Clara to work with us as an electric meter technician. Jeff made the switch because he wanted to work in a growing industry where he could develop new skills and advance his career. His love of Silicon Valley and technology made the decision to join our team even easier.  

As a meter technician, no day on the job is the same for Jeff. He has a range of responsibilities, from inspecting meters that are recording no usage to testing faulty wires. He also assists with Wi-Fi troubleshooting calls and resolves connectivity issues. While the electrical work itself remains similar, these applications are very different from his previous job. A techie, Jeff is happy to learn new skills on the job. “I see my job evolving to focus more on wireless communication services in the future,” Jeff says.  

Jeff has also found an encouraging community here at Silicon Valley Power, with colleagues who support his growth. “Every day is great when you are working around great people who can teach you new things,” Jeff says. In his free time, Jeff spends time with his wife and three daughters. They love to play family basketball games, setting aside quality time to exercise and have fun together.  

 

A Local Focus Brings Big Impact

Erica JueFor an energy and environmental policy professional, designing national and international regulations from Washington D.C. or New York City might seem like the ultimate end goal. But to Erica Jue, it was simply a starting point for creating meaningful and tangible change at a local level.

Throughout her early career, Erica worked on large-scale policy at a federal and global level. She was introduced to the energy sector through work with the California Environmental Protection Agency. After that, she honed her technical and policymaking skills at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Center for Clean Air Policy, developing energy forecasts and emissions impact analyses.

Then, in June of this year, Erica decided to join Silicon Valley Power (SVP) as a resource analyst. “My biggest motivation for this role was to move from working at the federal level to the local level. I felt that I could have more of an impact on the area that I live in and see how the work that I do impacts the community,” she said.

At SVP, Erica has found a new avenue for her background in economics and statistics and her creative spirit – she manages our renewable energy portfolio and helps us meet our carbon emission reduction goals. “I like that I am actually implementing those policies now,” said Erica. “Part of that implementation is having an effect not just on Santa Clara, because we do have a cleaner grid, but also nationally because we are setting an example for other regions.”

Her role also involves analyzing potential investments in renewables and the role of new technologies, such as fuel cells and energy storage. “What’s exciting about the industry is that there’s a lot of technological change,” she said. “Not only is the state willing to move forward on green power and innovative technologies, but the industry is too.”

Her refined career focus has accompanied a welcome lifestyle shift. “In my former life, I spent a lot of time in the city,” Erica said. “I love being able to spend more time outdoors now – gardening and hiking in the woods with my fiancé. We have the Sierras, the Redwoods, and the beach all so close by.”

Trading Coasts – and Electrons

May_QiuManaging electricity rates and market risk sounds daunting, but to some people it evokes the thrill and pace of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor.

For Yanmei (May) Qiu, a 10-year Silicon Valley Power veteran, supporting energy trading and analyzing rates is all in a day’s work to help her customers get the most affordable rates on the market.

May came to the U.S. from mainland China to pursue a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, she left for the East Coast, earning a master’s in finance from Boston College and working in corporate finance in Boston. Before too long, she returned to the Bay Area, eager to escape East Coast winters and see old friends.

Since 2007, May has been working for SVP in risk control analysis, balancing SVP’s risks and costs to make energy transactions run smoothly. “I help ensure we have the reliable power we need and the credit to back it up,” says May. “We have a 24-hour trading floor, it’s kind of like a stock exchange.”

A few months ago, on top of her risk management position, May stepped in and became the acting division manager for market analysis and pricing. In this new role, she must look at the “whole picture,” as she calls it, to analyze how rates are structured.

Her multifaceted experience and holistic approach to the business has helped her optimize these rate structures. May is proud that she plays a part in offering customers some of the lowest electricity rates in California. While her years of education have prepared her well for her career at Silicon Valley Power, she says, “I learn something new every day.”

When May isn’t learning new skills or showing off her finance chops, she spends quality time with her husband and two daughters, ages three and seven.