As the head of engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) at Plus Power, Naveen Abraham is proud of the business that he’s helped grow since he joined in May 2021. “When I came in, we were a small company, and the company was really focused on delivering one particular project,” he says. “Now we have so many projects in different stages. We’re fortunate we grew the way we did, and that we had the vision to do so.”
Organization is key for the standalone battery energy storage developer-operator, which has also grown to more than 100 employees. Especially with increasing lead times due to the pandemic and global conflict, getting started earlier and being organized has given Plus Power an edge when it comes to picking products and locking in contracts.
“We get to choose by starting early,” he says. “All of this only comes from the fact that we work in a very relationship-based fashion.” The company prioritizes mutual respect and repeat business with contractors and vendors, he says. It doesn’t necessarily mean hiring the cheapest contractor, but it does mean being reasonable and finding partners who believe everyone should be making a profit.
Abraham manages a team of about 20 people, whom he and his team hired in a methodical fashion, bringing on a few people at a time. “We hire based on what we need to do,” he explains. “We hire a lot from within our network—people I know personally or have heard of from someone who’s joined the team, someone they know.”
A person’s fit on the team is a big piece of the puzzle, he says, because they spend so much time together. “We tend to find people who would fit well in our environment and thrive here,” he says, adding that they look for driven people who like to get things done.
Modeling transparency is one of the central tenets of his leadership. Abraham believes it’s important for team members to feel comfortable asking difficult questions and handling difficult feedback, which has the potential to help them improve and grow within our organization. It’s also important to give employees a chance to feel invested in their growth.
“As I bring people on board, I always ask them, ‘What do you want to do a year from now, three years from now, five years from now,’” he says. “I want to make sure everybody who works here is happy and content with being here, and if they’re not, we should support them to fulfill their dreams, whatever that may be.”
EPC team members work on procurement, execution engineering, construction, and preconstruction, he notes. It’s the full life cycle, from project conceptualization through commissioning to turning on the project, Abraham says. After the project is turned on and commissioned, it goes to Plus Power’s asset management team, who keep it operating and make sure key maintenance is done.
“We strive to have a constant feedback loop with it. Asset Management tells us what’s failing, what we can do better, and how we can lower operational costs,” he says. “Because we own and operate the project, we try to build projects that cost as little as possible to maintain, as opposed to building it cheaply and spending a lot on maintenance.”
Abraham says he enjoys being involved in projects in multiple regions with different battery technologies, and today Plus Power has 8,000 megawatts of utility-scale projects in roughly 25 states. “The markets and the company have both evolved, with the company putting more systems and technology in place and building a stronger culture. I think the world is just getting to a place where they’re understanding the value of energy storage,” he says. “Energy Storage projects not only provide capacity services, but also provide ancillary services which can increase the stability of the grid.”
Meanwhile, Abraham notes he’s also honored to watch the company grow and see his employees take on more responsibilities. “Watching the company grow from 30 to over 100 people is really exciting. You get a sense of achievement,” he says. “Every person we add shows there’s more work to be done and more success to be gained, and that’s the best success you can get, watching the fruits of your labor.”