Gillian is a senior engineer in our offshore wind business, is based at the Bristol office, and has been with Atkins for 10 years when she joined in the nuclear decommissioning team.
Her work is currently focused on the asset integrity of offshore windfarms, which she says is important as we’re making it easier and hopefully cheaper to run the wind farms once they’ve been installed and generating electricity, in turn helping drive down the cost of wind energy generally.
How would you describe your work on current projects?
I’ve done quite a bit of design work previously but at the moment I’m technical lead on two asset integrity jobs: the first is remediation work for one of the earlier windfarms, and Analysis of Foundation Surface Deviations for one of the largest offshore windfarm developers.
The former is supporting the ongoing remediation of the grouted connection, where bearings are installed to support the Transition Piece and prevent further slippage. It consists of mainly regular reviews of how the work is going, answering Technical Queries and occasional studies where issues need to be looked at in further detail.
The latter is assessing the fatigue details on the Transition Pieces of 5 in-service wind farms and reviewing observation reports to classify coating defects. I’ve developed a tool that was for primary steel design on Triton Knoll (windfarm currently being constructed off the coast of Lincolnshire) to help automate the process. The final reports give a snapshot of the fatigue damage on the structures to date, as well as allowable behaviour if the life of the coating or Stress Concentration Factors are changed at particular details.
Why does your work matter to you?
As mentioned above, this asset integrity work is important because we’re making it easier and hopefully cheaper to run the wind farms once they’ve been installed and generating electricity. This should help drive down the cost of wind energy generally. I like that it’s making a tangible difference, as well as being varied and interesting technical work with a good pace.
What makes you proud of what you do?
There’s so much coverage in the news at the moment on climate change and what the world needs to put in place to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C. I’m really proud that it’s my day job to work on one of the solutions for that. Also, I’ve got a 3 year old son so I’ve met a lot of other women at mums’ groups in the last few years and they’re always quite impressed when I say what I do. There’s still a minority of women in engineering so I feel quite proud to be visible as a female engineer. I like it when my son proclaims “mummy designs ‘winter-bines!’”
Can you tell us about a time that you visited a client or site?
I've been on site when I worked in nuclear. I spent a year on the construction site so the view was constantly changing. While working on Dudgeon offshore windfarm (off the coast of Norfolk), the first offshore wind project I worked on, I got to visit the Smulders fabrication yard near Antwerp in Belgium before they started fabricating our Atkins design. It was amazing to see the scale of the monopiles, jacket structures and transition pieces in the yard – a 6m diameter transition piece looks a lot bigger in real life! It was really helpful for understanding just what was involved in some of the tasks our design would require, such as painting and weld grinding, and particularly the human health and safety implications of those activities.
What would you tell someone looking to go into a similar career to you?
Do it. There are so many problems for the world to solve and engineering in renewable energy is right at the front end of that work. It’s a rewarding, well paid and really interesting career so worth pursuing. Practically it’s good to try to find some work experience and to look at doing summer placements during university, both as a way of building up contacts and helping to narrow down a bit on what specifically you’re interested in.
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