Winds of change

26 March 2014

Twenty years ago, who would have thought that being a wind engineer would be one of the cool new jobs of the twenty-first century?

But with the growth of the renewable energy sector in Australia, there is an increasing demand for wind engineers and professionals.

So what does a wind engineer actually do?

Daniel Walsh, Manager, Wind and Solar Services at Pacific Hydro, has the answers.

1. What is your job?
My current job title is Manager, Wind and Solar Services, after spending eight years as a Wind Analyst Engineer. We have three Renewable Energy Engineers in our technical team, including a graduate engineer and another recent recruit, so we are quite a dynamic group bringing plenty of fresh ideas.

2. What do you do day to day?
I manage a team responsible for the technical evaluation of our wind and solar projects in Australia, Chile and Brazil. The main focus remains on wind farms, but it is exciting to be also looking into solar PV projects. Day to day, we undertake a range of activities from measuring the wind and solar resource, conducting resource and energy yield assessments for projects being developed and assessing the performance of our operating assets. I also provide technical advice on wind turbine noise topics.

3. What does an energy yield assessment actually entail?
Well, this firstly this entails detailed analysis of wind data collected with meteorological masts (up to 80m tall) out on the sites. These days, the wind resource can also be measured on the ground with new technology like small boxes shooting lasers into the sky, and funny toilet-shaped units that measure the wind with sonic beeps! We use wind flow models (created by the Danish masters) to expand the wind resource across the whole site and to find the optimal positions for the wind turbines. Finally, we forecast how much energy our wind farm layout will produce during its lifetime, to be used in the commercial evaluation of the project.

4. What do you enjoy most about the job?
It’s very rewarding to work on a renewable energy project from initial monitoring, through the development and construction process and into production of clean, green power. Indeed, working with clever, passionate and forward-thinking people is always inspiring.

5. Do you have a particular passion or interest that you have been able to fulfill through your work at Pacific Hydro?
In my later years of university I became aware of our impending climate crisis, with Australia being the highest per person carbon emitter in the world and the importance of renewable energy in addressing this. We have still got a long way to go to reduce our emissions but since 2001, Australian wind power capacity has increased from around 70MW to over 3GW and it’s great to have been a part of this growth with Pacific Hydro. More to come!

6. How has the company helped you nurture your own professional development and career?
My career has been able to grow alongside the company which has always been exciting. The established career development planning that the company integrates into the staff development program has been really supportive in the progression of my career.

7. Do you have any advice for recent engineering graduates?
Go for renewable energy of course and be open to new ideas, be flexible and have plenty of patience! The renewable energy industry is relatively new, especially in Australia and subject to changes in regulation and the political climate. But despite current barriers, it’s an exciting engineering field, with our methods always evolving and at the cutting edge and it’s ready for you to come lead the way!

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