I first joined Red Rock Power as an Engineering Intern in the summer of 2017 ahead of my final year studying a Masters in Mechanical Engineering (Meng) at Strathclyde University, and was a Graduate Engineer until recently. Working across our three projects – Inch Cape, Beatrice and Afton – I’ve been lucky to gain experience on both on and offshore wind projects at different stages of development so early in my career.
The reality of being an engineer within the renewables industry is quite different to what you might expect. Working on busy development projects means no two weeks are the same (unless you’re stuck on a vessel for 19 days, more to come on that later).
During my summer internship I took on a project investigating the technical and economic feasibility of ‘bird friendly’ wind turbines, which would be retrofitted with a system that would allow them to automatically shut down when a flock of birds were approaching. This gave me valuable insights into working with the technical, financial and environmental teams and how important research is on a live project.
I re-joined Red Rock Power as a Graduate Engineer in September 2018 after completing my course, where I split my time between our projects both on site and in our Edinburgh office. A typical day would see me work across the turbine, marine works, transmissions, and export cable package. In addition to this I would apply the knowledge gained from my studies to engineering tasks and provide technical input to project design evaluation.
The majority of my work on our operational onshore Afton Wind Farm in East Ayrshire is office based, such as decommissioning studies or providing technical input to issues that arise with the turbines. Our monthly visits to Afton might include climbing turbines to check they are operating correctly and inspecting parts in and outside of the tower, the electrical systems and blades. You certainly need a head for heights for this job!
As a part owner of Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm, our engineering team worked closely with SSE and CIP throughout construction and I was able to spend time on-site on the Pacific Orca jack-up vessel earlier this year, shadowing the team during the turbine installation phase. This included the loadout of turbines from the pre-construction harbour in Nigg and installation of the turbine towers, nacelles and blades; and learning about the interaction with onshore marine coordination, managing health and safety, and communication between the project and contractors to name a few. Of course, the nature of working offshore, particularly in the North of Scotland, meant the weather wasn’t always on our side. What was meant to be a 14-day trip, ended up being 19 days of downtime on a vessel with 80 people and lots of Netflix. Luckily this bout of bad weather didn’t cause any delays, and Beatrice – the fourth largest offshore wind farm in the world – was completed on time and under budget in May.
I was promoted to Asset Engineer in June 2019 and now focus on the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of Afton and working on the progression of Inch Cape’s O&M activity. At the moment, this sees me develop operational expenditure figures, develop the O&M strategy for Inch Cape’s operational phase, carry out turbine inspections at Afton, provide engineering input to Asset Management challenges that arise, such as the decommissioning of Inch Cape’s offshore met mast.
I’m currently balancing a busy work schedule whilst working towards my iMechE Chartership with support from the Red Rock Power’s ‘Chartership Committee’, which we set up recently to aid with the development of young professionals. Red Rock Power has a strong career development path for young engineers, and I’m privileged to have worked a great group of people and some inspiring mentors straight out of university. Our team has a wide variety of backgrounds and experience on some of Europe’s biggest renewable infrastructure projects so it’s a great opportunity to learn from them.
Red Rock Power plans to open applications for its new graduate programme later this year, with incumbent graduates joining the company for a minimum of two years beginning in September 2020. In the meantime, please contact us should you be interested in learning more about short-term work placement opportunities as part of your degree.