Carl Brothers has been working in the wind energy field for more than 30 years and has managed the Atlantic Wind Test Site at North Cape for 20 years.
During this time, he acquired an intimate understanding of wind energy technology, including the knowledge and the know-how to develop and apply green energy technologies to remote communities in northern Canada and elsewhere. It is in the development of technologies for these markets on which Frontier is now focusing.
The head office of Frontier Power Systems Inc. is located in Charlottetown, and the production facility is in Brudenell.
Since its formation in 2002, the company has focused on providing engineering services for utility wind and wind diesel technologies.
Frontier Power Systems is presently redesigning wind turbines for use in remote northern regions. They are also developing advanced technologies, such as variable speed diesel generators and advanced energy storage systems for deployment into these markets. These products, coupled with Frontier’s advanced integration control system, will provide those communities with a more reliable and cleaner electricity supply.
“We are an engineering company focused exclusively on wind energy,” says Carl. “The company provides engineering services and products to create wind energy. We do the design, do the wind resource assessment, and build the turbines.
“The company is presently focusing on isolated communities that rely on electricity generated by diesel fuel. Everybody needs electricity, but in isolated communities there is no grid to plug into. They bring in diesel engines to generate electricity 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day. It ends up being very expensive electricity.”
Carl says Frontier engineers have spent the last 15 years developing wind energy technology for economic applications for both utilities and remote communities. “In that time, we have established ourselves as industry leaders in the village power systems market – mainly isolated grids in remote areas.”
The company is developing a new arctic power system based on completely redesigned wind turbines, variable speed diesel generators, and an advanced energy storage system.
“Our aim is to get our wind diesel technology fully developed and commercialized. We will build the wind turbines on PEI. Right now, we are rebuilding 10 turbines, and nine will go to Alaska next year.”
“The ‘Next Generation Arctic Power System’ is an advanced power system for isolated villages in Northern Canada and around the world, which is being developed and will be manufactured at the Brudenell production worksite.
“Our investment, coupled with the repayable contribution from ACOA and the provincial government grant, enables us to develop and bring these advanced technologies to market much more quickly than if we had to provide the funding ourselves,” says Carl.
About the staff
“Frontier has nine employees, all of whom are native Islanders,” says Carl. “Six of those employees are engineers.
“Graduates from Holland College technical programs were hired for the three technical jobs. There are two technicians, a millwright, and an electro-mechanical technician, as well as an engineer at the Brudenell facility.”
The six electrical and mechanical engineers spend much of their time at the Brudenell production facility. The mechanical engineering team works on the design of the turbines. The electrical engineering team works on the electrical equipment design, the control systems, and communications.
Future hiring needs
“As a result of the new project, we will be hiring 15 to 20 staff within the next three to four years,” says Carl. “Hiring will commence over the next year.
“There will be a slight increase in mechanical and electrical engineering staff, but primarily it will be technicians and shop staff such as electrical technicians, mechanical, fibreglass technicians, and high-end assembly workers. A marketing team will be required in the future as well.
“If the turbines can be produced as cost effectively as we hope, then we have huge growth prospects. The project is currently in the first phase of the product development process. Job opportunities should increase as we start to take the products to market.”
They are in the design and engineering stage now, and Carl says they hope to start manufacturing the final product in less than a year. “We have a responsibility to deliver product by August, 2017. So we are on a pretty tight timeline.”
Challenging positions to fill
“The engineering jobs may be difficult to fill, but for the most part we find there are lots of skilled electrical, mechanical, and fibreglass technicians on PEI who we can draw from.
“A marketing team might be challenging to hire because the specialized market needs specialized skills.”
Educational requirements and transferable skills
“Probably 75 percent of the hires need post-secondary education such as the Holland College Electromechanical Technology program or a university engineering designation,” says Carl.
“About 25 percent of the hires will be semi-skilled workers for the assembly and fabrication work.
“We hired a guy who was a driller who worked in the mines for 30 years. He picked up a lot of work skills that were transferable to our company, such as good communication skills, a strong work ethic, the ability to follow instructions, and the maturity to know what he can do and what he can’t do. This guy was a really valuable worker who ended up leaving the company because a mine reopened and he was able to go back into remote areas and earn more money than what we were paying.
“We look for people who are eager to work and have well-rounded work environment skills, including good communication, reliability, respect for others, punctuality, and a good work ethic. We will provide the training for entry-level positions but we expect the workers to have the fundamentals of a well-rounded employee.
“Some of our older workers here have no formal training but are very skilled from previous employment. Even though they might not have the certification, we would acknowledge their skill sets when hiring.
“For instance, people who have been doing auto body work for years have the knack for working with the materials we use, and have the skill sets we really want.”
How will you recruit?
“We use the Job Bank and local job agencies,” says Carl. “We have lots of job applications and about a dozen resumés on file.”
Wages and benefits
“The company offers well-paid jobs by PEI standards,” says Carl.
Best way to get your foot in the door
Check for open positions on the Job Bank. Carl is responsible for interviewing and the hiring. For a shop-related position, the shop manager sits in on the interview.
“When we advertise on the Job Bank, we describe the job responsibilities and our expectations. These points should be reflected in an applicant’s resumé.”
When working for the company, what are the keys to successful employment?
“Have a strong work ethic, be a conscientious worker, and have strong fundamental employment skills,” says Carl.
“You need to be able to communicate, show up on time for work, be properly dressed for the work environment, have a good attitude, and show respect for yourself and for your peers. We have a policy of zero tolerance for harassment and disrespect.”
How to stand out during the hiring process
“You need to market yourself, learn what the company is looking for, and know what skillset you bring to the job to meet the employers’ needs,” says Carl. “Don’t get another person to telephone looking for a job for you.
“We need people who have the initiative to do the job without supervision and who can demonstrate that initiative through examples in a job interview.”
“We expect to grow the company in the coming years,” says Carl. “I am confident that Frontier Power Systems Inc. will be able to provide well for our employees for the next 20 years or longer.”
For more information about Frontier Power Systems Inc., click here.