Calum and Gillies, our Graduate Engineers, have completed their first six-month rotation with Red Rock Power working within different departments, gaining first-hand experience and a greater understanding of the renewables sector. They give us an insight into how the experience is going so far.

Calum Mackie

MEng Mechanical Engineering & MSc Renewable Energy Engineering

Gillies Munro

Mechanical Engineering w Renewable Energy BEng & Sustainable Energy Systems

What inspired your career in renewables?

Calum: I wanted to work in an industry that was achieving something beneficial to everyone, through reducing our environmental impact.

Gillies: I competed on the British Sailing Team so have always had a fascination with wind power and how it can be used as a source of energy, and how modifying equipment can deliver better results. This made for a very natural progression to both engineering and an interest in renewables.

What attracted you to the Red Rock Power graduate programme?

Calum: It was a combination of the broad experience I would be able to gain through the graduate programme rotations and the growth potential for Red Rock Power as a company. After speaking with my (now) colleagues during the interview process everyone was very friendly which made things much easier to choose.

Gillies: I was attracted to the programme primarily by the fact Red Rock Power is involved within the wind sector. A definite selling point was the ability to move around within the company on the different rotations and I was keen to experience a wide range of opportunities to help narrow down a sub sector to then focus on after the graduate programme.

It would be wrong for me not to mention the attraction of the team lunches and how sociable everyone is, although not sure when we’ll eventually get to enjoy that part!

How has the reality of working life differed from university?

Gillies: I like the structure it brings to my day and I think this has been even more valuable during the Covid restrictions. I’m greatly appreciative of the opportunity to have secured a place in the programme, and a long term job, so quickly after graduating university and especially during the pandemic.

Calum: I’ve been lucky to work alongside some very experienced people and gain so much insight into the steps involved in planning, constructing and eventually operating a wind farm. I enjoyed learning about the theory, but I am more interested in applying this in practice and seeing a project come together.

What types of activities have you worked on so far?

Calum: My first placement was within the Asset Management team which involved a wide variety of activities, from collating reports to supporting the development of the asset management system which has now achieved its goal of ISO 55000 accreditation.

Gillies: I’ve been working in the Engineering Department and spent a lot of time supporting M&A activity, looking at new opportunities and getting involved in the ScotWind process. I’ve also been working on the Benbrack project, researching corrosion protection strategies for ICOL, as well as helping to run the Inch Cape offshore wind farm OPEX Model.

What were the key things you wanted to acheive? What are your goals for the next phase of your programme?

Calum: I was always interested in learning more about the practical aspects of wind farm development and operations such as construction planning and turbine fault resolution.

Getting involved with the Asset Management team has allowed me to understand the process of monitoring and improving turbine operation by targeting key performance measures. I would love to take this a step further by carrying out turbine inspections, allowing me to validate any presumptions made previously. I am excited to get through my GWO training courses and carry out a site visit at Afton to make this happen.

Gillies: My main objectives going into the programme were to get broad exposure to the wind energy sector from an engineering perspective and experience of the wind farm design process in particular. I also wanted to improve my overall technical skills while gaining industry specific training, such as climbing wind turbines and offshore sea survival.  

Working on the foundations package team has given me a great insight into the technical considerations needed for the design of the foundation. Being able to lead the corrosion protection work package helped me develop an understanding of the interactions between materials and optimising the design life of the structure. I’m looking forward to doing more training when restrictions are lifted.

What elements of the programme have you enjoyed the most so far?

Calum: I’d say generally the variety of work has all been interesting for different reasons. I enjoyed working on the Asset Management system – thinking about organisational processes is a new area for me, one which involves quite a lot of consideration for human factors not necessarily typical of engineering!

Learning about the process for leasing an offshore site has also been very interesting, most notably how uncertainty is managed within the feasibility studies and translating this into a bid.

Gillies: I have really enjoyed researching and writing the Scotwind Application documents. This has stimulated good conversations with colleagues to tap into their knowledge and understand their basis for what offshore wind might look like in the future. Being involved in the M&A process of Benbrack and then seeing it being successfully acquired and now working on it as a live project has been rewarding too.

Has there been anything that surprised you or you didn’t expect?

Calum: The virtual gin tasting event during my first week was an interesting way to start!  It was great to get involved with a company social event at such an early stage and meet some of the wider team, especially while we are all working from home.

Gillies: The main thing that surprised me was just how nice the office is as all my interviews took place virtually. I’ve been in a few times during lockdown and it has some great views – can’t wait to be working there later this year.

How do you feel working from home has impacted your experience?

Calum: I’m quite comfortable working from home and have learnt some new skills as a result. However, getting to know your colleagues via emails and Teams calls will never be a substitute for in-person conversation. To that end, it will be great to get into the office and catch up with some of the people I have been working with remotely over the past six months.

Gillies: I guess, given that this is my first proper job, working from home has always been the status quo so I do not know anything different. Although I miss the social interaction and the offhand chats that you would normally get when meeting colleagues in person.

I’ve not met as many people as I would in the office, but that said, everyone I have met has been exceptionally friendly and helpful.