How did you first become interested in renewable energy and joining the clean energy transition?
When I graduated from university with a degree in electrical engineering I knew I wanted to work in renewable energy. As a student, I had already started looking at opportunities in sustainable energy and had visited the Centre of Alternative Technology in mid-Wales, where I had my first opportunity to work with small wind turbines which were used to provide the electricity needs of a small community, together with hydro.
There were not many jobs in renewable energy at that time, but I joined one of the first UK manufacturers of wind turbines, Wind Energy Group (WEG), at that time part of the Taylor Woodrow construction group. WEG had just finished installing a wind farm of 300 kW wind turbines in Altamont Pass, at the time of the “Californian Wind Rush.” WEG then developed a two-bladed 300 kW wind turbine and won orders for three UK wind farms in mid-Wales, Yorkshire and Cornwall. It was the beginning of the wind industry in the UK.
Tell us about your expertise and passion in the sector. For you, what is the next “space to watch” in renewable energy?
The wind industry has made huge advances in the intervening 30 years. In Europe, there had been a few attempts at building megawatt-scale wind turbines, such as the 3 MW Growian in Kaiser Wilhelm Koog in Germany and the WEG LS1 on Orkney in Scotland. These were not commercially viable and OEMs moved to manufacturing smaller wind turbines, which were deployed in a number of markets in Europe and the U.S., where there were subsidy mechanisms. The leading countries in Europe were Germany and Spain.
In 1999 I was working for Garrad Hassan and moved to Spain, where I set up Garrad Hassan’s first office outside the UK. It was an exciting time to be working in the Spanish market, where the government support for wind energy was encouraging a boom which lasted for over 10 years. The continued investment in technology and efficiency measures by wind OEMs, and the benefits of volume production as wind energy has grown globally, have brought sustained cost reductions, such that wind energy is now the best economic choice for electricity generation in many markets.
Wind turbine technology has also developed dramatically at the same time as those cost reductions have been achieved. Modern multi-megawatt wind turbines are complex, controllable power stations, able to support stable network operation. Having seen onshore wind, and then offshore wind, move from “too costly” to “cost-competitive”, the next step will be floating wind, as experience with today’s pre-commercial projects brings costs down the technology learning-curve, opening up whole new areas for offshore wind development.
What sort of challenges did you encounter in entering the sector? Can you tell us about an achievement wherein you overcame such a challenge?
I have been fortunate for most of my career in having very supportive male colleagues, but I have missed having female role models. I have had one female boss, for just six months of my entire career. In DNV GL, we are actively encouraging women into management positions and personally, I enjoy having many more female colleagues now than I had 15 years ago