In advance of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Engineers Journal spoke with Brigid Walsh, who will be a contributor at Engineers Ireland’s forthcoming national conference, which will focus on the topic of Engineering Climate Action: Solutions to combat climate change in Ireland.
Walsh and her colleagues at Enerpower were responsible for Ireland’s largest solar pv installation project at Lidl’s new distribution centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare.
The rooftop solar panel installation, consisting of 4,364 solar panels, will produce 1,011,929 kilowatt hours of energy annually, the equivalent to meeting the electricity requirements of 240 homes and reduces the centre’s carbon output by 473 tonnes annually.
Why did you decide to become an engineer?
The job of an engineer influences where people work, relax, learn and live their lives. There are a vast range of fields, and positions within them, available in the engineering world. I find it exciting to have so many options, love the variety of roles available and enjoy the flexibility and variety this provides.
At what age (or stage of your life) did you start to think about becoming an engineer?
I commenced my engineering studies as a mature student in 2006 and graduated in 2011 with BEng (Hons). I have a curious personality and a creative approach to problem solving.
These aspects of my personality were not being satisfied in previous jobs I held and, having reviewed career paths, I decided that the engineering profession would be a fantastic outlet for me. This has proved to be the case and I thrive on sharing ideas with colleagues and the exposure this has provided to different ways of thinking and learning.
While commencing my college experience was exciting it was also terrifying. It was necessary to put my life, and my family’s life on hold as I left behind the security of a full-time job and salary and embraced the day to day life of full-time education. In the early stages I did worry as to whether, or not, I had made the right decision.
I clearly recall walking into the lecture hall on my first day, an environment that was vastly different to any I had experienced before and the doubts I felt about the decision I had made.
However, almost immediately, I realised how right the decision had been and quickly came to understand that I was experiencing one of the most rewarding and uplifting stages of my life. I gained self-confidence throughout my time there.
My time in Carlow IT was very positive as I was fortunate to be tutored by lecturers who were extremely supportive and encouraging.
During the five years I studied at this college I was able to expand my network and made friends for life. I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to work alongside some of these people on different projects since then.
Would you encourage others with a passion for engineering to return to education?
I have no hesitation in recommending engineering to others interested in pursuing this career regardless of their stage in life. While everybody’s personal circumstances differ, I would also encourage anyone who is considering returning to full-time education follow their dreams if possible.
I believe that our colleges can do more to promote this career choice and open it up as an option to more people. We could encourage the recruitment of creative people and problem-solving aspects of jobs in this field. These qualities can be as valuable as having a strong scientific or mathematical background.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I love seeing a project come to life - from the starting point with drawings to the real form. Being part of a team, which makes this happen is fulfilling.
As an engineer I have had the opportunity to work with new technologies, understand how they work and liaise with others as to how improvements can be made. Engineering, being a creative field, has provided immense job and personal satisfaction for me.
What excites you about the future of engineering?
I currently work in renewable energy and technology in this area is advancing at a very fast pace. Corporations are embracing emissions reduction targets the objective of the climate action plan to limit the impact of their activities on the rise in global temperatures.
Drone footage of the solar panels.
They are embracing new innovations in energy production such as solar, wind and biomass. I am excited about what the future holds as we are working to provide solutions for a more sustainable Ireland and to combat climate change, global warming and reduce carbon emissions.
Who or what inspires you about your work?
I am passionate about being involved in providing alternatives to the traditional methods of power sources. While I am just one person among many who are striving to change mindsets and help to find solutions to stop and reverse global warming, this inspires me daily and I welcome the challenge this presents.
Tell me about your role in Enerpower
I commenced working with Enerpower almost two years ago. As I am very passionate about renewable energy, I am delighted with the opportunity this has given me to gain experience in this field.
Enerpower provide a wide range of cost-effective and sustainable energy solutions for various sectors including; public, industrial, commercial and agricultural. Working across both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, we are experts in renewable energy sources.
My responsibilities, as Enerpower’s contracts manager, include the financial monitoring and control of all contracts, ensuring that the company is compliant with health and safety, environmental and quality regulations. I also ensure that the company’s objectives are achieved, and procedures are adhered to.
We are looking forward to a very busy 2020 and are excited to have a large number of projects in the pipeline. Our recent move into larger offices allows our teams to expand in line with our business growth.
Hear more from Walsh and her work with Enerpower to deliver Ireland’s largest solar pv installation project at Engineers Ireland’s forthcoming National Conference on Thursday, April 23, at the Helix, DCU. For more information, visit: http://bit.ly/EngineeringClimateAction