You studied your MSc in Sustainability Planning & Environmental Policy at Cardiff. What made you choose this course in particular?
At the time I chose the course a number of changes were being made to planning policy at the Welsh Government level to embrace the sustainability agenda. The MSc provided an opportunity to learn more about this topical agenda, which is now a cornerstone of the planning system. The modules offered were the most relevant to my future aspirations to deal with complex development projects, particularly those requiring Environmental Impact Assessment.
You graduated in 2009. Could you tell us what you’ve done since then?
I was employed as a Development Management Officer for the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority when I graduated and remained in post for a couple of years dealing with a range of planning applications. In 2010, I joined the Infrastructure Planning Commission (the IPC), a non-departmental public body set up under the new Planning Act 2008 regime to deal with Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. Based in the onshore wind sector at the IPC, my role was to case manage major infrastructure projects and to provide advice and guidance to stakeholders throughout the pre-application and examination process.
After seven years in the public sector, I joined Capita Symonds as a Principal Planner to gain private sector experience and worked on a range of local authority, healthcare and education proposals across South Wales and the South West of England. In 2012, I joined RWE Innogy UK Ltd as a Renewables Developer to project manage a number of onshore wind projects across Wales.
You're currently a Renewables Developer for RWE Innogy UK LTD. What does a typical day involve?
There is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ in the life of a wind farm developer! The role involves a range of tasks that must all come together to enable a wind farm project to progress to construction. These tasks include the initial site identification and securing legal agreements with landowners; securing the grid connection with the local distribution network operator; managing the Environmental Impact Assessment process; managing the preparation, submission and negotiation of the planning application process (and possible planning appeal); and co-ordinating the discharging of planning conditions and section 106 obligations in preparation for construction.
I liaise closely with other departments, including construction, technology, electrical, finance, health and safety etc. to ensure that all relevant matters are considered and that the wind farm project is progressed through the various stages. The role also involves consultation and engagement with stakeholders including local planning authorities, statutory consultees, landowners, local residents and groups to ensure all views are considered during the development of the wind farm.
What are your favourite aspects of your role?
The life of a wind farm developer is varied and no one day is the same – that’s what I enjoy most about it. I have learnt a vast amount about the wind farm development process beyond just the planning permission aspect which I was already very familiar with. This includes the opportunity to learn about financial models, procurement, grid connections, wind turbine technology and the construction process. I also enjoy the less conventional aspects of the role such as taking school children to visit our operational wind farm sites and seeing them excited about renewable energy.
What effect has your qualification had on your career?
Together with the practical experience I have gained over the years, the qualifications from Cardiff University were integral to gaining full chartered membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute. Collectively, these have been invaluable in terms of both initially providing an opportunity to get on the planning career ladder and subsequently with promotions and new job opportunities.
What are your future aspirations?
I am passionate about renewable energy and am thoroughly enjoying the opportunities that the onshore wind industry has to offer. My short - medium term aspiration is to develop my career in this field.