When I was younger I used to enjoy tinkering in my dad’s shed, making jewellery with his soldering iron. At school, I loved technology and design and enjoyed the freedom of being creative. Engineering is an incredibly creative subject with no limitations to what you can do. As a subject, it gives you the tools to create and build anything you can imagine.
After leaving school I studied mechanical engineering at Ulster University, spending a year abroad at St Martin’s University in Washington, USA. When I returned from the States, I decided to continue my engineering education, this time heading to the Centre for Renewable Energy at Dundalk Institute of Technology in Ireland.
I’ve spent the last few years working on ‘utility scale’ offshore wind farms projects. These are huge turbines with rotors up to 180m long and which produce several megawatts of power to feed into the energy grid. I have also been involved with some exciting research and design projects which allow the blades of the wind turbine to be monitored for lightning strikes. This information can then be captured and used to improve future designs. Given their height, wind turbines are ideal targets to lightning strike and it is crucial engineers put systems in place to protect them.
The best part of my job is the exposure to lots of different interesting people, all of whom are as enthused about renewable energy as I am. As well as working with a really diverse range of people, I get to help companies build wind farms in the ocean. This sees me engaged in all parts of the process, from solving technical issues to negotiating with clients. My favourite bit of the process is seeing the turbine built and visiting it offshore. On one visit I even got to have my lunch on top of a turbine – the views were amazing!
Since graduating from university, I have gained over 9 years of working in the renewable energy field. Although my background is mechanical, engineering is a very diverse subject and opens doors into hundreds of other areas.
Engineering is what makes the world work, it provides the basic infrastructure of how we live. I think it’s easy to take our modern luxuries for granted, but imagine if we didn’t have electricity, plumbing systems, transport infrastructure or buildings. I am always surprised when people question the feasibility of renewable energy as a source of electricity and power. We must all work together to help redesign and build sustainable world for the future.
Laura has helped Siemens and Scottish Power build offshore wind farms, which helps us produce cleaner sustainable energy and believes there is a lot of room for development in other renewable energy technologies.