#onedaywith Frank Scholtka
What’s a German industrial engineer doing in Texas? We interviewed Frank Scholtka, Team Leader in Product and Service Management at E.ON Climate and Renewables.
“Are they part of Star Trek or Star Wars? It’s all the same anyway, isn’t it?” I ask, after having looked at Frank’s cufflinks with the small spaceships. He shakes his head, grinning. “That would be like saying tomato juice and orange juice taste the same. Well, both are juices!” We both laugh, the ice is broken.
Frank has been living in Austin for a year and is responsible for the two SAP modules for Plant Maintenance and Materials Management. These will be used to digitize the servicing and maintenance processes. In other words, this means that: He takes care that the wind parks run smoothly. Outage and maintenance times should be minimized. Among other things, this is due to the software, which he is responsible for, as well as over 2000 wind turbines.
Sustainable on the high seas
We meet Frank during a stay in Germany at our headquarters in Essen. Prior to his job in America, Frank worked from the Hamburg office for E.ON’s offshore wind farm, Amrumbank West. He then supported our entire offshore fleet in Europe, until finally he looked after the onshore fleet from Essen. As he talks about his career, his gaze falls from the window of the cafeteria. A typically grey German winter morning, upon which we have arranged to drink coffee together. Rainy weather is one of the things he would not miss. In Texas, it's always warm and sunny. In the summer, the temperatures even exceed 40 degrees Celsius. “In such conditions, I prefer to swim, for example at the Barton Springs pool. This is centrally located in the Zilker Park and is fed, throughout the year, by underground springs, which are 20 to 22 degrees.”
From space to wind power
Back to Star Trek. Frank explains his fascination for the series, as it is a driving force behind his profession. As a teenager, he “devoured” all of the episodes as well as the films. I learn that in Star Trek, our planet Earth has been largely fixed. There are no conflicts, no environmental disasters, nor hunger or poverty. This vision of the future did not just inspire Frank as a young man. He wanted to make his contribution to the future and, as an engineer, he felt that had the privilege and obligation to find solutions for problems. Inspired by a lecture at his school, he decided to become an industrial engineer.
How did he end up at E.ON? “This happened during his studies. I was involved in a student initiative dedicated to sustainable energy. I gave lectures and hosted panel discussions on the subject of renewable energies and climate change. In doing so, I discovered my passion for this area. From my point of view it is the key topic of our generation. If we do not start to do something about it, then who will? The impact will be even more serious for all generations to come.”
Shaping things as an incentive
“Five years ago, I started working as a trainee in the field of renewable energies in order to gain practical experience. The industry, which is still young, offers an enormous potential for development. The change to renewables is enormously exciting and an dynamic field of development in which you can shape a lot. Be it the planning of large offshore wind parks, or the digitization of our processes.”
Frank likes the fact that he is able to grow in such a young industry and is able to take on more and more tasks. He also finds special appeal in the somewhat unpredictability of nature. Nowhere is energy generation as dependent on environmental influences as it is in the field of renewables. “Nature is unique and this always gives me inspiration for something new. These elemental forces! When the wind blows against you when you’re up on such a mast! Or when you are being rocked through the waves like a toy boat. I want the many generations that come after us to experience the same. This is why it's all the more important to work on solutions which are sustainable and conserve resources. Not only in the field of energy. At E.ON, we're on the right track.”
He just has to save the world
And what will come next, I ask. “For now, I’ll fly back. Back to work in Texas. When the day is over, I like to go jogging at the Lady Bird Lake or enjoy some live music with my colleagues at my favourite bar, the ‘Blind Pig’. It’s great with cowboy hat and boots, as they go together.” And professionally? “I don’t yet know. There are many things that interest me. The field of renewables offers so many opportunities; there are so many challenges that have to be solved. I definitely enjoy being a part of it and I look forward to the next challenge.”
As such, Frank has to save the world and then perhaps the universe. He already has the right cufflinks for the job - and I have a clue of what Star Trek is all about.