Mike O’Brien joined Nolan Power Group (NPG) in 1991 to start the company’s Test Services Division and to develop the Capacity Testing program. Thanks to his pioneering efforts and continued guidance, NPG’s Capacity Testing is the most comprehensive in the industry. He also provided the technical guidance needed to start the UPS Department (Uninterruptible Power System).
His deep knowledge of stationary power equipment, UPS systems, customer insight and field experience mean that Mike is also ideally suited to be an Instructor at Battery Academy, the state-of-the-art training program offering in-person and online courses in Stationary, Telecom, Motive and Industrial Battery Systems.
Q: What is your role at Nolan Power Group?
A: As the Technical Services Manager I’m essentially the lead technical person in the company. I’m very proud of the knowledge and ability of all our technical staff and I’m the person they come to when they have a difficult technical issue. I’ve had a hand in training many of these fine folks and it is very rewarding when they come to me with their solution to a difficult issue just to gain a bit more insight and confirm their solution.
I also write and teach our formal training courses on stationary battery systems and UPS systems. I get tremendous satisfaction from teaching and helping others learn these often complex systems that make modern life as we know it possible. These courses are conducted in the field as well as at Battery Academy.
For more about my background and my work at NPG, check out my bio here: Instructor Mike O’Brien
Q: Briefly describe your approach to battery training.
A: I teach beginner level to advanced level courses, so I tailor each class to the knowledge and experience level of the students. It’s important not to teach above or below the experience and education level of your students. I’ve taught students from first year apprentices to chief scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. My goal is to provide a practical training experience designed to meet the specific needs of the students.
Q: Tell us about a company value that you’ve seen in action.
A: Safety is crucial to our daily operations. The systems we work with provide power for crucial control and backup systems, the things that make modern life as we know it possible. Batteries cannot be de-energized and can contain a lot of energy so it is paramount that our technicians know how to safely work with these systems, both for personal as well as process safety.
Q: What is your involvement with developing industry standards and writing technical papers?
A: I’m an active voting member of the IEEE standards association as well as an author of numerous technical papers regarding back-up power system design and maintenance and testing.
I’ve also spoken at industry events, conferences and roundtables and have been on industry advisory committees. I wrote and presented the first paper at the first Battcon technical conference and presented a class on Stationary Battery Systems at the 2015 IEEE PCIC technical conference.
Q: What is your favorite story to tell about being in the field?
A: There are a lot of them, but one that comes to mind was a project in Missouri where we constructed a 2000-amp rectifier plant with 2N redundancy in the parking lot of a major phone company. We supplied all the power to run their Central Office during a commercial power upgrade.
This Central Office handled the 911 service for a little over a third of the state so dropping power was not an option. We used a pair of silenced diesel generators, primary and reserve, to power our rectifier plant. This job took considerable planning and the execution was flawless.
The commercial power was only supposed to be out for two-hours, but complications arose and the power was off for nearly 8-hours. We’ve all heard of Murphy’s Law, and I firmly believe that Murphy was an optimist, so we planned for an extended runtime and obviously it was a good thing that we did.
Q: Tell us about your hobbies outside of work.
A: My wife claims that work is my hobby, but outside of work I spend most of my time with church activities and chasing grandkids, we have seven. I teach adult Sunday school and was recently selected to be on the board of directors for my church. My wife and I also perform prison ministry.