Power Generator: Bob Piske and Gen-Tech
By Frank J. Frassetto III
Robert “Bob” Piske recalls, as a kid, the formative experience of watching Lake Powell expand with Colorado River water after the Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963. “As a family, we would travel to the Lake Powell campground, watching the lake fill slowly to where it was no longer a long distance from our camping site,” he says.
As an Arizona native, and co-founder of Arizona Generator Technology, Inc., aka Gen-Tech, Piske has had the opportunity to see many other changes throughout the state. Some of the most significant changes in his power generation profession include the technology, equipment, and tools utilized for work. Some modernizations are definite improvements, while others seem to compound issues.
Born in Phoenix in 1957, Piske has long enjoyed working with his hands and has a deep interest in mechanical and electrical fields. His first job was as a facilities technician, changing lightbulbs in a parking garage located at the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Indian School Road in 1976. Piske then became a self-taught parking-lot ticket-printer repair technician.
Eventually, Piske’s eagerness to learn new skills helped him become a high-rise engineering apprentice for three Del Webb Company properties. While working the night shift, he entered trade school and became certified as an HVAC technician. Piske’s next job was as an assistant at a heavy equipment dealership in the field service division, focusing on in-cab HVAC systems. For 12 years, he traveled across Arizona servicing heavy equipment, ultimately pivoting his career into power generation equipment.
This career path allowed Piske to commingle his electrical and mechanical interests. For example, one project in Buckeye had several gas engines with direct drive, powering a right-angle gear drive irrigation pump that would flood hundreds of acres of farmland. Over time, Piske witnessed these pumps providing groundwater along with Colorado River water supplied by the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which he worked long hours helping build.
“I have traveled Arizona witnessing the state's growth," he says. "Orchards have given way to housing developments with little to no separation between cities.” He describes the changes to Lake Pleasant, which once collected runoff from the Agua Fria River and now also stores Colorado River water from the CAP. "Water consumption must be balanced with our reservoirs’ capacities and yearly runoff from the surrounding high country,” Piske says. "Allowing growth to exceed resources will eventually destroy our way of life."
As Piske’s experience grew, so did his opportunities. In 1989, he was selected to be the start-up technician for a construction power plant in a remote location on the coast of Alaska. This position was mere days after the Exxon Valdez incident, which allowed Piske to see firsthand the magnitude of the disaster. He flew to the area where a common occurrence was moose grazing along the runway, requiring a land-based vehicle to coax them away from the landing strip.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, May/Jun 2023 issue, Vol. 12, No. 3.