Last week’s instalment
In my last blog I talked about how I got into engineering, how renewable energy generation helps combat the climate crisis and some of the challenges that have been overcome in developing offshore wind farms.
In this second blog I talk about hydroelectric power, community power projects and why engineering is a great career if you want to combat climate change.
Hydroelectric power stations in the UK
In a hydroelectric power station, water is stored in a reservoir or lake. The water flows down from the reservoir and the power of the flowing water is used to turn the blades of a turbine connected to a generator. This creates electricity.
The first photo shows a turbine (blue and yellow doughnut shape) and generator (blue box at the back) at a power station in the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. One of the benefits in working at hydroelectric power stations is that they are often located in beautiful mountainous locations. At this power station I helped monitor the electricity generators to make sure they were in perfect working condition.
Hydroelectricity generator in Snowdonia National Park
If any of you have looked at the GB Grid Carbon App, you will know that hydroelectricity is a small but significant part of the UK’s electricity generation. As I write this, I can see from the app that 2% of our generation is coming from hydro.
In some parts of the world hydroelectricity is the main source of renewable energy. Engineers there are looking to increase hydroelectricity output to reduce carbon emissions.
Hydroelectric power stations in Africa
Hydroelectricity is a major source of renewable energy in large parts of Africa. With demand for electricity increasing there, it’s important the demand is met from renewable sources.
In 2018 and 2019, I led a team of engineers in Mozambique surveying high voltage cables at one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in Africa, supplying electricity to South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
We worked with the Mozambican engineers to survey and test the cables. Together we developed a plan to make sure the power station would continue to provide renewable energy for many years to come.
Community Energy Projects
I retired as a full-time engineer in June 2020. But engineering is too much fun and rewarding to give up all together.
As well as the Woodcraft Folk’s Kids Field Project, I’m now volunteering on a community energy project where I live. The aim of the project is to build and operate a solar power system using solar panels on the residents’ houses together with battery storage for when the sun isn’t shining. This will provide low cost renewable energy for the local community.
Community energy is becoming more popular as people look to reduce their carbon footprints.
In Bristol, a new housing development is being built by the residents themselves. The houses will have solar panels on the roofs and be part of a “microgrid” so they can share power between them.
In the Aran Islands, houses have been fitted with solar panels, storage batteries and air to water heat pumps. Heat pumps are another important way of reducing carbon emissions and are going to be covered in another instalment from one of the other engineers in the Woodcraft Folk’s project.
Look out for the next blog in this series. It will describe how solar power systems are designed for Woodcraft camps and music festivals.
The engineers of the future
I enjoy (and have enjoyed) the work I do, meeting dedicated engineers from around the world focused on providing clean renewable energy.
I’ve had an enjoyable and fulfilling career and am proud to have been able to contribute to fighting the climate crisis through my work.
If you would also like to help to solve the climate crisis, while having a great time in the process, I can definitely recommend a career in renewable energy engineering.