How studying renewable energy helped me develop my career


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Claire Newton studied renewable energy and the built environment at CAT as a way to develop her role in the Sustainable Energy Department at E.ON. Here she talks about what the experience of studying at CAT was like, and how it has contributed to her career.

I had worked at E.ON within their Sustainable Energy department for a year before I chose to undertake the MSc in Renewable Energy in the Built Environment (REBE) at CAT. My job required me to undertake high level feasibility studies for renewable energy technologies such as solar PV and wind turbines for clients and I wanted to deepen my knowledge on these technologies with the underlying theory as well as broaden my knowledge of renewable technologies into other forms such as biomass and solar thermal. Another key factor in choosing the REBE course at CAT was the emphasise on the practical implementation of the technologies. CAT was a place where the environment was really at the forefront in the motivation for learning about these technologies and as such lots of different engineering solutions had been tried. Students were encouraged to be similarly innovative in testing out different solutions when we were designing and building our solar thermal system or when we were walking the windy hillside trying to find suitable locations for wind turbines and possible means for connecting these back to the grid.

renewable energy course
The course has a strong practical element, alongside academic work

I wasn’t disappointed when I got to CAT and found that all the tutors had experience in building systems and had worked in the low carbon market on average for 10 years or more. Not only were they friendly, but they were also very keen to share their knowledge with the students and prompt them forwards. This was an area where I really benefit from CAT, as up to that point I had very much been in a design rather than implementation role at work.

A typical attendance would run from Tuesday to Sunday, with the first couple of days being focused on the technical or engineering theory of the technology in lecture time and the time from Friday onwards being spent in Practicals. Evenings often involved a one-to-one opportunity with tutors to discuss essays or reports or else attending guest lectures which looked at the broader topics of low carbon technology deployment. One evening lecture that particularly stood out from my time at CAT was how renewable technologies could be deployed in rural Africa to dramatically improve the standard of living.

The whole experience of CAT had a low carbon feel for me – the accommodation was within a low carbon building where the walls were specifically designed to retain heat in the winter and keep the building cool in the summer and where the hot water for the showers was from solar thermal collectors on the roof; the food was all vegetarian and sourced locally where possible.

renewable energy course
Lecture in the rammed earth lecture theatre

In terms of benefits for my work they were many; they cemented my knowledge of the low carbon technologies; gave me an awareness of new applications for the technologies that we hadn’t previously considered; introduced me to innovative variations on technologies for example SolarWall and finally I made friends who are equally passionate about the environment. The course has meant that in the future I would be able to do investment grade level studies in different renewable technologies which I saw as an important aspect of my future development in the role.

To find out more about studying at CAT, sign up to our masters courses open day on November 16th.