#onedaywith Jessica Schreiber
Jessica’s Mission: Grid stability
Life is live (and so is electricity)
It's a typical December morning in Berlin: It's cold, dark and grey. We make our way east, leaving the “Berliner Ring” in the direction of Frankfurt/Oder. Our destination: The town of Fürstenwalde in Brandenburg.
Our colleague, Jessica Schreiber, is already waiting for us. She receives us in her office. On the walls, there are shutter cabinets with technical equipment. Most of the time, Jessica is working in the field. Her work is related to the stability of the electricity grid. After her technical high school certificate, the 28-year-old trained at E.DIS. Since 2014, she has been working hard for the grid operator for the Brandenburg region. Before we leave, she shows us her typical equipment. On the desk, there's a robust laptop, which wouldn’t look out of place in a James Bond film.
A quick look at the clock and she says, “Let’s go”. From one of the cabinets, she fetches two cases with measuring instruments and tools as well as her blue protective suit, which is made of special interwoven fibers that protect against electric shocks. “This is just the basic equipment”, she tells us. “Everything else is in the car.” The VW camper van is in the car park - a mobile measurement and work station, into which she loads her equipment. In the meantime, the sun has managed to break through the clouds. We get on board and head towards the town center.
Coffee helps to start the day
We reach our first destination. A transformer has to be serviced. Behind the pragmatically maintained building there is a sophisticated switching system, which supplies the local area with power. We look at fuses and wired meters. Right at the top, there is a large black lever. We point to the distributor: “That switch there looks important!” Jessica smiles: “Yes, it is as well. We have to actuate it when we interrupt the power supply. However, this has to be registered beforehand at the grid control station. If we carry out test switching or write programs with which we work in medium-voltage, they are always our point of contact.”
“What's your schedule on a typical day?” Jessica laughs: “I often get up really early. Coffee is a must. I usually start at seven in the morning. Most of the time I start directly from my home, as I get the appointments beforehand. Then I go into the office later on, or sometimes not at all. I travel a lot.”
Well protected against twenty thousand volts
Jessica opens the back door of the van and places her equipment in front of the station. She is already wearing the protective suit. Her tools are stowed ready for use in their designated pockets. Before she starts, she puts a special helmet on. The green visor ends flush with the suit. “What do you need that for?” we want to know. “I work in low and medium voltage ranges in the course of maintaining stations. Electric arcs can occur. The helmet protects you from these.” We take a few steps back when the switching occurs.
Grid stability in wind and severe weather - at all times
Jessica packs up her equipment and reloads the boxes into the transporter. “It's all good,” she says, as she locks up the transformer station. This week, she is on standby service. This means she has to be available twenty-four hours a day. A call can come at any time - like when a winter frost places a load on the lines and this causes power failures. However, weather-related disturbances are becoming less frequent thanks to ground cables.
We take a short detour with the car to a nearby wind farm. From here, generated electricity is fed into the grid. When we leave the car, a cool breeze blows around our ears. Interested, we ask “Has the shift towards renewables actually had an impact in your work on the grid?” Jessica shakes her head. “Not much. When we shut down a wind park, we always coordinate it in advance. This way, there are no fluctuations.” The job requires a bit of flexibility from her. But this pleases Jessica, “You experience a lot and the work is varied. You have to concentrate, apply technical knowledge and be responsible.” The fact that she mainly works alongside male colleagues does not bother her: “Sometimes my lack of technical knowledge is exposed. And then I ask a colleague. But otherwise it boils down to the same expertise.”
Home town pride, Hertha and Motorbikes
Jessica feels very secure in her hometown of Fürstenwalde. She grew up here and went to school here. She only left the town in order to do her training. “Although it's relatively quiet, it's not too quiet. You can do a few things here, there is beautiful scenery just outside your front door and at the same time, it’s not too far from Berlin. This is why I did not want to be too far away.” Jessica lives in a somewhat older brick building.
When we enter her apartment in the afternoon, we are first welcomed by both her cats. She also travels a lot in her leisure time. Her team often meets up directly after work in order to spend the evening together in the cinema, in a bar or at the bowling alley.
In the summer, it’s Jessica’s Honda motorbike that gets her heart racing. Her colleagues from E.DIS often come with her on motorbike excursions: “Every other person in my team rides a motorbike. Now and again we have a weekend away. Last summer we even took our motorhome to Valencia in order to get there to see the last race of the Moto GP!” Jessica puts fresh water into the bowls of her two fluffy feline flatmates. She also meets her friends when there is a Hertha football match in the fan curve of the Olympic stadium.
Wishes for the future: “House and family. Standard things. And, of course, the professional title of ‘master’. I’ve already made the application.”
Before we go back to the “big B”, we ask Jessica about her wishes and plans for the future. In her direct Brandenburg style, the answer comes as if it were fired from a gun: “House and family. Standard things And of course, my professional title of ‘master’. I’ve already made the application.” We'll keep our fingers crossed.