CIF Member Focus: Gaeltec Utilities – Energising Excellence through Engineering

Gaeltec Utilities, a specialist contractor that continues to deliver in Ireland and beyond.

Gaeltec Utilities has been successfully delivering transmission and distribution networks for over 15 years, during which time it has established itself as a distinguished brand with expertise in the energy and telecommunication sectors.

Employing over 300 staff directly, the Kilkenny-headquartered firm offers a wide range of services in niche sectors. A specialist in transmission and distribution networks, the Gaeltec name is widely recognised for its knowledge and ability to deliver various scale energy projects, including full turnkey developments. The company is also heavily involved in the delivery of critical fibre broadband infrastructure in various markets and has become a key player in the telecoms sector.

Declan Wynne, Executive Director, Gaeltec Utilities, says that the business has gone from strength to strength in recent years.

“One of the key contributing factors to both our domestic growth and export market expansion is our ability to offer key clients reliable, tailored and flexible services,” Declan Wynne says. “Gaeltec delivers complex projects for public, Semi- State and private clients in various markets across Europe. Many of these schemes are fast-track mission critical infrastructural projects, requiring extensive experience and competence in the field of engineering. The openness of our entire team to continually self-assess, improve, and be willing to change and to challenge themselves is the most important ingredient.”

With a large number of engineering professionals in disciplines that include electrical, mechanical, mechatronic, and civils, coupled with highly-skilled technicians and experienced field staff, the in-house team has a track record that proves its capability and capacity to deliver schemes.

EXPERTISE

Gaeltec has extensive experience in overhead power lines, substations and grid connections, providing design, construction and tailored solutions to utility companies, private entities, blue chip and multi-national organisations and private developers.

From network planning to conceptual design, including full engineering procurement and construction contracts, the Gaeltec team meets client expectations in both the telecom and energy sectors, delivering to world-class standards in notably challenging environments or timescales.

In recent years, the telecommunications side of the business has grown substantially.

Gaeltec offers a full range of network planning and design services, fixed network solutions including fibre and equipment installation, and a range of services for mobile and wireless networks.

In addition, the company boasts deep data centre sector expertise, where it specialises in power provisions and grid connections. Last year, Gaeltec successfully delivered a full design and build 220kV AIS substation and grid connection to power a new world-class data centre at Clonee, Co Meath.

“It was the first design and build 220kV substation privately developed on the Island of Ireland,” Declan Wynne explains. “It was a flagship project for the Irish energy industry and is now one of the key nodes on the electricity network. It is also the heart of the most sophisticated data centre on the planet.”

CLIENT BASE

Gaeltec’s client base reads like a who’s who of the energy and telecoms sector. It includes ESB Networks, Bord Na Mona, Coillte, ESB Wind Development, Scottish Power Energy Networks, major multinational blue-chip enterprises, and Siro – the ESB and Vodafone joint venture that is currently rolling out gigabite-speed broadband services to rural towns around Ireland.

“The majority of our business is with large Semi-State or large utility companies and major multinational firms,” continues Declan Wynne. “However, we also deliver projects for a number of smaller, private developers, mainly associated with grid connections for renewable schemes.”

Gaeltec has also established a reputation in the renewables sector. In Ireland, the company is currently working on a turnkey design and build contract for Ireland’s largest onshore windfarm in Co Mayo. The project is being delivered for a joint venture entity comprising ESB and Bord na Mona.

In the UK, where Gaeltec is a service partner for Scottish Power, the company is working on the world’s largest offshore windfarm – the Hornsea development, off the northeast coast of England. The project is being developed by Orsted and will power up to 1.3 million UK homes when completed. Gaeltec is a project partner to Siemens to deliver an important element of the scope.

“We see the offshore renewable market playing a key role in the development of the business in future years,” he continues. “UK government policy will drive continued growth in offshore renewables, and we believe that offshore windfarm development is something we will see more of off the coast of Ireland in the not so distant future.”

INTERNATIONALISATION

International expansion has been central to Gaeltec’s growth strategy over the past number of years.

“The recession was exceptionally difficult for many firms,” Declan Wynne says. “Although at the time, it hit our particular sector later than others as funding was locked in, and these schemes were built out despite the recession. However, the tap was turned off in 2012 and we saw a major slump in the domestic market. Thankfully, we had already triggered the internationalisation of the business and had some inroads to sustain reasonable business volume in other markets and retain key personnel.”

Today, Gaeltec has offices in Ireland, the UK, Portugal and the Nordic region, where it runs sizable operations that are fully aligned with the company’s growth strategy and development plan.

“Our primary asset is our people and their passion,” he says. “Our success is down to the knowledge and expertise of our individual employees working as a collective, and their passion for high-end workmanship. Our delivery model firmly focuses on in-house expertise, all of the key competencies required to deliver are inhouse. Even during the recession, we took a strategic decision at board level to retain our core people.”

The other critical success factors he mentions are the company’s track record and partnership approach to project delivery.

“We work in partnership with clients; we are now getting involved in contracts earlier. We can add greater value over the full life cycle of a project through early engagement with clients who strategically contract specialists to work in a partnering arrangement.”

Sustainable growth is the dominant theme for the future.

“We see substantial sustainable growth continuing for the company in the coming years,” he says. “We will progress in existing markets and develop new clients and marketplaces.”

NATIONAL BROADBAND PLAN

However, there are some dark clouds on the horizon. Declan Wynne laments what he refers to as the “lack of vision and proactiveness” of the Irish Government on the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

This is hugely disappointing, and it will have a major knock-on effect on the Government’s ability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and regional locations throughout Ireland. People not having high-speed broadband across Ireland for many years to come is simply not good enough. It is an issue for wider society, for the development of rural Ireland, for the education of future generations, and it will debilitate any prospect of enterprise areas outside of regional hubs.”

“Considering Ireland’s ranking within the OECD countries, it’s surprising that such a critical piece of infrastructure continues to be undetermined. Kicking the NBP further down the road will certainly not help attract businesses out of urban regions, where housing remains a major crisis. This, coupled with the limited power supply in various regions throughout Ireland, raises many questions for domestic businesses and international investors.”

Declan Wynne, who holds a degree in engineering and a master’s in business administration (MBA) is firmly focused on the development of the business. He concludes by saying that, Gaeltec’s future growth will be underpinned by continuous investment in people and systems.

“We continue to upskill and adopt the latest technologies, including BIM and other smart software systems that drive efficiency. We have a strong appetite to remain as the leading business in our field, and that in itself helps drive performance.”

With competent and passionate people and a clear growth strategy, the business seems to be well positioned for continued expansion and export, making for exciting times ahead for the Gaeltec team.

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