Green Week 2023
"I’ve always seen renewables, and in particular, offshore wind as an exciting sector, and was keen to apply my skills and experience from previous roles, while learning new lessons relevant to this industry."
My name is Grant Anderson and I live on Lewis with my wife and 2 children. I would like to tell you about my time as a student at the UHI and how it has enabled me to take my first steps into the world of renewables.
I originally went to university when I left school in 1998 and did an engineering degree however did not pursue a career in that sector, opting for a career in the Emergency Services which lasted almost 18 years and took me all around the Highlands and Islands, and we returned to Lewis in 2015.
At the end of 2019, I began exploring alternative opportunities which would allow me to progress my career while remaining in the Western Isles with my family. I decided that it was the renewables industry that I wished to be a part of.
At the start of 2020, following some enquiries and visits to the campus, I decided to enroll in the BEng (Hons) Energy Engineering degree at University of Highlands and Islands (Outer Hebrides) where, thanks to my previous studies, I started in third year.
Prior to commencing the course, I had several visits to the campus to meet the lecturing staff, see the facilities available and ask any questions I had on the course. All the staff were very welcoming and tried to allay any fears I had of returning to higher education after a break of nearly 20 years.
The course itself was initially a mixture of on-line and in-person classes/tutorials which, thanks to my shift pattern in my full-time job, enabled me to attend a large percentage of. Where I couldn’t attend, they were easily replayed online. In March 2020, due to the COVID pandemic, all of my learning moved to online however the level of support didn’t reduce and I was still able to contact my lecturers (wherever in the UHI network they were). Assessments were a mix of online examinations or additional coursework assignments.
I really enjoyed the variety of subjects and found the knowledge of the teaching staff and feedback given for tutorials to be extremely helpful and allowed me to complete third year successfully. I continued into fourth year with a view to achieving my Honours Degree.
During the summer break of 2021, I saw an advert for an internship on the UHI intranet to work with an offshore wind company called Copenhagen Offshore Partners. The initial expectation was that the position would be based in Edinburgh and due to my location, I was doubtful I’d be considered for the role. But deciding that I had nothing to lose, I applied.
Thankfully, the team saw my potential and thought that my previous life and career experience would be of benefit to the company, and I was taken on board to work on the Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm project, which they allowed me to do remotely alongside my full-time job.
Initially, it was anticipated that I would work on the project until the start of my final year in September. But, after completing a range of work including an Emergency Response plan, various Health and Safety documents and project processes, I realised how much I enjoyed the supportive and close-knit team environment.
I’ve always seen renewables, and in particular, offshore wind as an exciting sector, and was keen to apply my skills and experience from previous roles, while learning new lessons relevant to this industry. The industry is very diverse and encompasses a huge range of disciplines and skills. I was genuinely surprised at the number of people working together during the early stages of the project and how quickly the team had grown since the start of my internship. My internship was eventually extended which allowed me to collaborate with the Pentland Team on my final year project.
When I joined the team, the topic of safety zones was suggested based on my experience with HM Coastguard and the fact that an in-depth study of the Pentland Firth site was yet to be carried out.
With the rapid expansion of floating offshore projects on the horizon, the question of co-existence with other marine users, navigational safety and floating turbine movement was extremely relevant and I was given access to the Pentland Project data to aid my research.
Using environmental data for the Pentland Firth site and supported by Pentland’s anchor and moorings expert I ran various scenarios, changing mooring line types and water depth. I then looked at the effect of changing these parameters on the foundation offset and mooring line tensions, carrying out calculations to support the software findings and reviewing current safety zone legislation to draw conclusions.
Getting to grips with the complex software package was a steep learning curve for me, but it was extremely rewarding when the simulations ran correctly, and trends and patterns emerged from the results. Knowledge from my course modules all helped my understanding when carrying out my project and has definitely given me a really good grounding moving forwards.
After graduating, I began to look for a career in offshore wind that would allow me to remain in Lewis. I knew that the ScotWind leasing process had been undertaken and that several companies were looking to develop offshore wind projects off the coast of Lewis.
One of these companies, Northland Power advertised for a number of roles working on these projects and I was successful in obtaining a position as a Project Developer on both the fixed bottom and floating offshore wind sites which they are looking to construct.
Both my degree and internship time has provided me with a good baseline level of knowledge and experience to allow me to quickly settle into this role and get to grips with procedures, processes and terminology.
I have found the return to higher education to be very worthwhile for my new career direction and found that coming back to it with additional life experience and a more focussed outlook paid dividends. I did not feel like I was treated differently due to my age and enjoyed engaging with my fellow students and staff alike.
I would encourage anyone with an interest in renewables to look at the courses on offer at the UHI. There will likely be something to suit you regardless of your background. I am hoping that the experience with the UHI and my new role will see me remain here for the foreseeable future and I am proud to be doing something that will hopefully have a long-lasting positive impact locally for my family and the wider community.
Find out more about the range of Green Sector courses we offer at UHI Outer Hebrides - Green Sector Careers
Find out more about Green Week 2023 at UHI - Environment and Sustainability - Green Week (uhi.ac.uk)