Caroline Gutridge – #TeamRenewables
by RES | Jun 11, 2022 | Reading time: 5 min
From the age of seven, Caroline Gutridge, Operations Manager Offshore Transmission (UK&I), was inspired to work in the renewables energy sector after a visit to the Centre of Alternative Technology in Wales. She followed her passion after being inspired to find out more and has since made a career out of it. We are pleased that 11 years on at RES she is doing what she loves most!
Read more about Caroline in the latest #teamrenewables:
I studied a MENG in Civil & Structural Engineering at Cardiff University. When I finished, I worked as a structural engineer designing bridges for a few years. Suddenly all things renewable and low carbon started to expand and the company I worked for needed people to urgently help with creating strategies for zero carbon homes and mixed-use developments for initial planning proposals.
I asked for a transfer and they put me on a secondment in their renewables team. I remember doing hundreds of calculations by hand repeatedly for weeks on end, which churned out how many solar panels you could fit in a certain roof space, how many wind turbines they would need, sizes of heat pumps, types of insulation required, total energy use of the development etc. I remember thinking there must be a better way of doing this and coming from the structures department where I would create a spreadsheet for everything, I knew an excel spreadsheet is what we needed.
I went on to study a MSC in Renewable Energy at Loughborough University and whilst I was there RES gave me a call and asked if I’d like to design onshore wind farm infrastructure and of course I jumped at the chance. I went for an interview and got a post in RES as a Project Engineer and started designing infrastructure for onshore wind farms.
The designs included coordinating other specialists like the electrical, grid, drainage, SCADA and structural designers. I then took a secondment for 18 months to the construction team to build Tallentire Wind Farm and when I came back to the Project Engineering team, I became Principal Designer for Penmanshiel Wind Farm and then Garreg Lwyd Wind Farm.
Another secondment opportunity came my way, this time for five years with Scottish Power Renewables to help construct East Anglia One 400kV Onshore Substation and 40km of their 220kV export cables. I then came back to RES in the role of Operations Manager for the transmission assets we operate and maintain on behalf of our clients.
What attracted you to work in the renewables industry?
I’ve wanted to work in renewables ever since I was seven years old after I was taken to the Centre of Alternative Technology in Wales. I loved this hydro lift and a wind swing they had. It all seemed to make sense – why would you burn coal when the wind can help you swing, and water can take you up a mountain side. They are still open to this very day and I highly recommend a visit to help inspire the next generation!
What are you most proud of at RES?
I have two things I’m proud of; firstly, helping build Tallentire in Cumbria. I had been the project engineer so had been involved with some of the design and then I was an Assistant Site Manager. It was great to see it all constructed and be on site when it was energised.
Secondly another proud moment was Penmanshiel Wind Farm – I was Principal Designer for that project, and I implemented a lot of the lessons I had learnt and resolved the problems for the construction team before they knew they even had them. I had a fabulous team that created 3D designs of the infrastructure (which hadn’t been carried out before for onshore wind) and we were able to see all the potential clashes.
I remember sometime after Penmanshiel was built the Construction Manager was interviewed in a RES video and he said that the project was a great success with everyone being proactive and planning ahead, any challenges that did come up had already been foreseen with contingency plans put in place, and I thought yeah we put a lot of effort in and it paid off!
Where do you see your career in 5 years’ time?
I see myself in the Operations Manager role but with a larger team and undertaking the Operation and Maintenance for more OFTO’s.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Sailing offshore to see my first Offshore Substation, Walney Extension. It was a beautiful sunny September day with super flat calm seas where you could see the reflection of the turbines in the water.
What does a day in the life look like for you?
My role involves ensuring all the planned operation and maintenance is completed for six OFTO’s that we look after on behalf of our clients. I have a team of eight people, but we are also supported by a team of SAPs and our Control Centre in Glasgow. We carry out all planned maintenance for onshore and offshore assets (the onshore substation, the export cable and the offshore substation).
It involves visual inspections of the assets and LV&HV equipment, statutory inspections, servicing of equipment such as diesel generators, winches and cranes, RFI surveys, battery testing, taking oil samples from transformers and so much more. It also involves non-electrical work such as keeping the welfare facilities in a good condition. The team also monitors and responds to alarms which may involve mobilising to site very quickly to fix the problem.
A typical day for me would start off with reviewing the alarms that have come in. Then, I’ll check our Operations Schedule, deal with any last-minute resourcing changes and then respond to our client’s queries. I normally have a meeting with one of my team members and we will have a catch up about how they are doing, how their work or project is going, and we will look at planning future works. I also have to approve a lot of requisitions and invoices.
I always try and get a walk in sometime in the morning especially if it is sunny as this clears my head and makes me more productive.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Visiting the offshore installations and meeting my team in person, also meeting the skippers and the external contractors that work with us.
How do you see your role and the industry evolving over the next few years with the growth in the renewables industry?
The team is only going to get bigger, and we will take on the operation and maintenance of more OFTOs and certainly get involved in OFTO’s on a global scale, which is really exciting.
In terms of the industry, the offshore turbines have not stopped getting bigger so that will continue over the next few years and beyond. The offshore wind farms will get further offshore so travel distances will increase for us, and this will definitely involve more floating structures & wind turbines and use of remotely operated equipment. I think with all these energy security issues arising currently, countries will look to use more of their own resources like wind and solar to power their countries. Especially as they can be built in a relatively short space of time compared to other low carbon technologies.