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Sam Johnson – #TeamRenewables

by RES | Sep 19, 2023 | Reading time: 4 min

For the first time in nearly a decade, the words ‘onshore wind’ is being uttered in in Westminster amongst the UK Government. Powered by the cost-of-living crisis and continued questions surrounding energy security, onshore wind, and a lift on the ban in England, could be a solution to the current ‘imperfect’ storm.

During this year’s Onshore Wind Conference in Edinburgh, the Scottish Onshore Wind Sector Deal will be signed which Sam Johnson, Senior Aviation Manager at RES and member of the Leadership Group, has been tasked with delivering since early 2023.

Sam’s dedication to a career in renewables spanning more than 10 years is evident in her accomplishments and various roles within aviation and renewable forums. Her passion may even be attributed to her family history with commitment to helping others and improving the lives of many for the greater good.

Read Sam’s story in the latest #TeamRenewables: 

Career Journey

Following my Master of Mathematics degree at Southampton, I got a job working for a Defence company, where I joined their Radar Analysis team. Although I learned all my radar knowledge in this role, for which I will always be grateful, I always wanted to make a more proactive and positive impact on the world. So, when I was offered the chance to lead the wind farm team, using my radar knowledge to help the wind industry, I was thrilled.

After six or seven years of running the team, a new career opportunity came over the horizon. I was offered the job of Aviation Manager at RES – that was in October 2013 and I haven’t looked back since!

Where do you see your career in five years’ time?

A few years ago, I began working as Project Technical Analyst (PTA) alongside my existing role of Senior Aviation Manager – a great new challenge using parts of my brain that have been dormant for a while! I enjoy both roles and their ever-changing challenges very much and I hope to continue with both in the long term. However, the aviation aspects have got much busier again recently and I am now back to a full-time role. In February this year, I was asked by the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport to take on the role of Technical Theme Lead on the Onshore Wind Strategic Leadership Group. The first challenge has been to help write the Onshore Wind Sector Deal, which will be signed at the Onshore Wind Conference in Edinburgh on the 21st of September. Over the next five years’, there will be a need to deliver the commitments of the Sector Deal, which will include taking account of emerging aviation issues as turbines get taller. I will be heavily involved embracing the technical challenges.

Earlier this year, I was delighted to win an IEC 1906 Award for my role as Convenor of the IEC Marking and Lighting of Wind Turbines and subsequent publication of the Technical Specifications. The IEC 1906 Award is awarded in ‘recognition of exceptional individual achievements’ which have advanced product and electrical systems in a significant way.

The Role

In my day-to-day work as Senior Aviation Manager, internally I interact mostly with Project Managers and Development Project Managers to ensure that aviation is considered from an early stage in the project lifecycle. This can include overseeing internal aviation assessments and monitoring the progress of sites but also liaising with external aviation stakeholders to try and resolve any issues in the most effective way as possible. I largely work in UK&I onshore wind but have lent my support to offshore and global teams too, including work in Scandinavia, Australia, Japan and France.

Externally, I am the Chair of the Aviation Investment Company Limited, the Convenor of IEC Marking and Lighting of Wind Turbines team, the Technical Theme Lead on the Scottish Government Strategic Leadership Group, a member of the Eskdalemuir Working Group, the RenewableUK Aviation Working Group, the DESNZ Aviation Management Board, the OnWARD 2030 group and the Wind Europe Aviation Task Force.

A day in the life

I don’t actually have a typical day, which is what makes my job so enjoyable. In any given week, I could be in meetings with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, the Ministry of Defence, Civil Aviation Authority, The Crown Estates or any number of airports to discuss aviation strategies. On the other hand, I could be attending one of the many aviation forums I sit on – it’s a rewarding feeling when you know that you have a had a hand in getting a site consented.

Tell us about your favourite hobbies and interests

I enjoy lots of interests such as gardening, walking, tennis, badminton and attending the theatre. I also have a recent addition to the family, my grandson, Rome, who can cause all sorts of lovely chaos.

However, I guess the most bespoke interest I have is running my charitable company, The Matchgirls Memorial. I set this up four years ago with my husband after discovering that Sarah Chapman (immortalised on the Netflix Enola Holmes 2 movie at the end of last year), one of the Matchgirls Strike leaders in 1888, was my Great Grandmother.We are campaigning for a statue and other memorials, including education programmes, to ensure the legacy of the brave girls and women and their groundbreaking stand for working rights at the beginning of the new labour movement is never forgotten. I believe we have very good working conditions at RES, but we should not forget that it is down to the courage of the poor women and girls, on 12-hour days, six-day weeks, very low pay, unfair fines and working with dangerous white phosphorous, that has made that possible. 

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