Aggreko powers forward with Olympic operations
Published by Anne Marie Hughes on Wed 04 Jul 12 @ 10:40
By Tim Sharp, City Editor, The Herald.
Between the solemnity of the government offices on Whitehall and the lush green lawns of St James's Park lies 240 lorry loads of sand awaiting the imprint of the lithe limbs of the world's top beach volleyball players when the London Olympics begins in 23 days time.
Less conspicuous are the white containers set in discreet corners, which contain millions of pounds worth of kit from Dumbarton and are the generators that will keep the event running.
The boxes bear the orange logo of Aggreko, a name unlikely to be familiar to many of the spectators who will pack into the 15,000 capacity stadium rising rapidly within Horse-guards Parade.
But the Glasgow-headquartered temporary power operator, which has a market worth of some £5.5 billion, is one of Scotland's largest companies.
It has a £50 million contract to supply power to the London Olympics having operated at previous Games, including Beijing and Atlanta, as well as football World Cup finals, and events such as the Superbowl and Glastonbury.
Some 245 Aggreko employees are working on the assignment, many of them having dedicated two years of their lives to it.
And, 400 miles away, its new £20m factory at Dumbarton has been operating at fill tilt to fulfil demand for a project that was initially expected to require 400 generators and is now taking at least 600.
Aggreko has more than doubled its staff in Dumbarton to 400 in the last couple of years.
Aggreko chief executive Rupert Soames said: "We have had extra people employed there because of the need to get the staff for the Olympics."
Robert Wells, head of Olympic business at Aggreko added: "We couldn't have done it without the Aggreko manufacturing facility."
Aggreko has spent £27m in capital investment for the Games, although much of the equipment will later be sent to other projects.
In all, it has dispatched some £90m of kit to London, including 1590 kilometres of cabling and 350 fuel tanks.
Aggreko will supply power to temporary venues such as Horseguards Parade, where it has 62 generators, the equine site at Greenwich Park, and Hyde Park, which is hosting the triathlon and marathon swimming.
Elsewhere, Aggreko will support the opening and closing ceremonies at the main Olympic stadium, where some of its generators are located on barges on the nearby River Lee.
At the 38 venues it is supporting facilities such as security, lighting, catering, ticketing that have been installed for the course of the games and also has generators on standby in case of a power failure at those sites relying on the National Grid for the bulk of their power.
A key role is ensuring the broadcasting function, one of the most power hungry aspects of the Games, is kept on stream.
Even though the capital remains bathed in drizzle, one of the key potential challenges facing Aggreko is a spate of fine weather that sends people reaching for the air-conditioning switches in the hospitality tents and could cause overheating of equipment.
Mr Soames said: "If you have a power cut the computers go down and are restarted.
"If it trips because it gets over-hot because your cooling has failed it won't turn on again for another half-an-hour."
Aggreko has capacity to supply some 230 megawatts of power of which it expects half to run with the remainder as back-up.
Aggreko's services are in such demand because London's Games features extensive use of temporary structures.
Mr Soames, grandson of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, said this avoids the mistakes of previous Games for which large numbers of new buildings were built and, he said, in future years "you end up running the tiddlywinks championships in this enormous echoing stadium".
To a large extent whether this model proves a success is if Aggreko can ensure the power stays on. Those white boxes from Dumbarton have an important job to do.