Ray Carroll was just 24 when he started working as an assistant operator at Seaboard Generating Station in Glace Bay.
Thirty seven years on he still loves his job operating a Cape Breton power plant, though his future here on the Island wasn’t always so certain.
Carroll knew he wanted to excel at his job, but with Seaboard’s future in question he felt any chance of advancement was limited.
Yet with the exception of a nearly 10 year stint in Alberta, Carroll has been able to pursue his career here at home in Cape Breton, making him one of 20 Nova Scotia Power employees to recently celebrate 25 years of service with the utility, five of whom work at Lingan.
The plant has a tradition of dedicated employees, with one celebrating 30 years of service this year and another marking 35 years with NS Power. That’s seven Lingan employees representing 190 years on the job at Nova Scotia Power.
As a newer graduate seeking job security, Carroll and wife Maureen took a chance and moved to Alberta. For nine years, Carroll worked as a power engineer for Transalta. But after their daughter was born, Carroll and his wife wanted to move back home to Cape Breton.
“It was important to us that she know her grandparents and all her aunts and uncles and cousins. Our roots are in Cape Breton and we wanted to come home,” Carroll said.
Plus they longed to camp and hike again in their beloved Cape Breton Highlands.
Seaboard was closed in 1997 but in the meantime Carroll’s skills landed him the position of operator at Lingan Generating Station, which had opened in 1979. Today, the 61-year-old is leading power engineer at the plant.
“There is a true sense of being part of a team at Lingan, but I think what I like best about my job is sharing my experiences with and mentoring the new and younger operators,” Carroll said.
It’s a tough job market for new power engineers and Carroll says he has a few words of advice for them. “You have to excel at what you do. You have to commit and you have to stand out from the crowd.”
His co-workers have done just that. With the shift to more renewable generation in Nova Scotia, the coal-fired plant’s role is changing and employees have adapted by embracing new technologies.
So far this year, 29 per cent of electricity was generated by renewable sources compared to nine per cent in 2007. With the Maritime Link coming online, 40 per cent of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020.
But coal-fired plants like Lingan continue to play a vital role, providing a cost-effective and reliable form of generation, chasing fluctuating levels of wind energy.
Employees have adjusted with shift changes to meet the flexible needs of this new environment of generation.
Years of shift work isn’t easy, but Carroll said his wife is his rock. “I couldn’t have made it without her. She is my best friend.”