Women in Engineering series: Back to school

Working with education to develop more women engineers is vital for the energy industry.

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Engineering companies and companies who hire engineers, meet your newest and most important stakeholders – girls. They might be your 12-year-old daughter, your six-year-old niece, or your preschool neighbour next door. 

Talking to young girls about your job in the field or about their potential future career in engineering, is no longer a “wouldn’t it be nice” moment or a box to check. It is now fundamentally important to your business. If this doesn’t happen, you won’t be able to acquire the talent you need 10-15 years from now to solve the problems presented in your business.Women in engineering: Working with education to develop more women engineers is vital for the energy industry

If you don’t take advantage of developing global female talent in our schools toward STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering and maths plus art & design) initiatives, our girls will still go on to do something amazing, but it won’t be in engineering. 

Considering what we know about the complexities of the problems we’ll be facing in the years to come, engineers, mathematicians and scientists are going to need every bit of smart, collaborative human talent they can get.

So, when I think about girls in science growing into women who engineer, I focus first on attracting them to the subject matter. It sounds simple, but whether we want to speak about it overtly or not, there are ways in which we filter our girls out of math and science that we have to be incredibly conscious of.

In school, in some instances, we even have to force the issue through mandating that every student – boy or girl – touch the areas of science or math. This helps us fight standard gender stereotypes. It’s much more typical for boys to collect statistics on baseball or football players, than it is for a girl. It’s much more stereotypical for a boy to be encouraged to play with motorized airplanes, Legos, robots and transformers, than it may be for a girl.   

Now, none of these stereotypes are universal, of course, but these are the forces our young girls are up against and it’s important to understand that. So how can we combat it? How do we first get them interested in engineering and then, how do we ensure they stick with engineering long-term and make it their career of choice?

Early love of science

Starting as early as preschool, girls should be introduced to concepts like coding. They can become familiarized with robotics, and be building structures with blocks and Legos. At this age, there’s not an opportunity for gender stereotypes to surface. By the time girls have experienced STEM, they equate it with fun. From a social and emotional standpoint, if they are pushed to do something else, they’ll push back.

But, school isn’t the only place where learning happens, of course – the most important classroom in fact is right at home. Girls can be taught STEM skills in simple and unexpected ways to complement the learning taking place in school.

For example:  

 

·       Tracking the weather: Every morning before school, check the weather report online or on TV. Have her place a bucket outside to measure rainfall, and keep a graph and chart to keep track of the rainfall over time.

·       Building Lego models: Follow closely the building guide that comes with the Lego set. Ask her: Why is that the next step? Why do wheels go on either side of the car? What do you think this shape will turn into?

·       Baking cookies from scratch: The science behind baking sparks a great discussion about how different substances react to elements such as heat, not to mention the math involved.

·       Magnifying sunlight: Take a lens and place it on a piece of paper outside in the sunlight. When the piece of paper burns, ask if she expected the reaction. Then, research sunlight and where it comes from.

Once girls have started down this path, it’s critical to keep them on it by presenting them with a wide range of opportunities. In education, we have found that competitive opportunities at the middle school level work extremely well.

As students become more competitive approaching high school, our girls are very easily encouraged to take that competitive impulse and put it into science and math. Whether that’s becoming a mathlete or participating in a competition like ExploraVision, where girls work together to design a future city or innovation in the field of science and tech, the key is to help them feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in this area that enables them to stick with it. Sharing feel-good moments with their peers in these instances keeps girls engaged.

Next comes high school, and this is where we lose the most of our female scientists and mathematicians. It’s the place where corporate partnerships must come in to play. For businesses that want to be successful in 10-15 years, they must have a role in developing the female talent in our schools today. 

If not, they are setting themselves – and our girls – up for failure. If we can give girls the opportunity to work in a lab, work at a research center, interact with female engineers, they will be hooked for life, ready to study in our top engineering schools, and ultimately on to do incredible work in the field.

Build a talented workforce

There’s a growing and critical need for engineering talent. Considering what we know today about the challenges we’ll be facing in the future, we need a smart and collaborative process to develop and attain global talent.

Adecco Staffing surveyed 500 senior executives and asked if the current American workforce had the skills necessary for success. It should be of little surprise that the results highlighted a stark reality for our children. The study found: 

·       92 per cent of Americans are not as skilled as they need to be for career success;

·       44 per cent lack the ‘soft skills’ of communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration;

·       59 per cent of senior executives believe our education system is to blame for this gap.

The characteristics of success in typical academic environments were never designed to support today’s work requirements. The corporate community has got to step up and engage in the education process. And I don’t just mean in college; by then, it’s much too late.

If corporations and businesses have a clear sense of what they need in a future employee, essentially that ‘training’ can start to happen as early as preschool. Right now, educators are guessing as to what will best prepare girls for the future, as most have no experience or depth of understanding of what will be required of an employee at Exxon Mobil, for example. If the desired result is a woman in the lab, shouldn’t educators be talking to the people running the lab?Women in engineering: Working with education to develop more women engineers is vital for the energy industry

In school today, memorization and test taking skills, as reinforced by standardized tests and written exams, teach girls how to handle stress and repeat ‘right’ answers to finite problems. They do not require them to solve for new complexities, but they do penalize them for thinking creatively or ‘experimenting’ with solutions.

By praising a girl’s ability to follow instructions as demonstrated through individual performance on traditional rote homework assignments, our girls are rewarded for ‘walking between the lines’ individually, but not for their problem-solving skills or for the end product of a group or collaborative.

How, then, can we get girls on track for success beyond their academic careers?  How can we ensure that they are someone we would want to hire?

Ten years ago, educators could teach girls a set, set of skills that could form the foundation of any career. But with the evolution of technology, girls have to acquire skills like problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and communication at a much younger age. We are venturing into an area of skill development that many teachers have no experience with. What they do know is how to teach, and they must work in partnership with the people who have the knowledge.

Bringing about this change requires meaningful collaboration between the schools that teach our girls and the businesses that will eventually hire them:

Express the specific desired outcomes for work-ready graduates. Get involved in your local school board. We need engineers, scientists and doctors on our education committees. It’s critical for educators to consult with technical professionals as we develop curricular models so we’re preparing students with the skills needed once they enter the workforce 10-20 years from now. Remember, we are not engineers, but we can teach the concepts needed to be a successful one.

Support and encourage school-work partnerships so that students may experience ‘real-world’ expectations. What girls need more than anything else are role models – female engineers in the oil and gas industry, at NASA, etc. – who are engaged and excited about what they are doing. Females who can speak to our girls about the impact they are making on our planet, the global problems they are solving, and the difference they can make if they stick with STEM.  If those moments happen, our girls will go on to become engineers because the environmental factors and stereotypes working against them won’t matter. Women in engineering: Working with education to develop more women engineers is vital for the energy industry

 

Offer shadowing opportunities in your place of work so girls start to understand what it feels like to be in the real world. Many of the associations, supervisory entities you’re involved in have lecture opportunities. Find out if they are willing to open these places up for high school girls to attend, as well as trade fairs and other lecture series.

Listen to the ideas and concerns of teachers, administrators, faculty and staff. Get your company involved in local social groups or religious groups working with local schools. Participate with the primary focus of being a model in engineering. Also consider being an adjunct teacher. There are tremendous opportunities on the K-12 side as well as community colleges.

These are not simple solutions, of course. But, without a partnership between schools and employers, public and private, I don’t see how we can combat the choices young girls make that lead them away from lucrative and rewarding careers in the field of engineering.

Gabriella Rowe is the Head of School at The Village School in Houston, a private, international PreK-12 school in Houston known for its focus on science and math. Each year, nearly 50 percent of Village’s graduating females go to college to study in the engineering field. Rowe was actively recruited for the position and, after one year, grew student enrolment by 20 per cent. She has been involved in the global education industry for nearly 20 years, leading The Mandell School in New York for 14 years before moving to Houston. growe@thevillageschool.com

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Floating windfarm withstands hurricane and storms

The developers of Hywind Scotland, the world’s first commercial-scale floating windfarm, have reported better-than-expected results in the first three months of the project’s operations.

A joint venture between Norway’s Statoil and Abu Dhabi clean energy company Masdar, the 30 MW windfarm located 25 kilometres off the Aberdeenshire coast has been powering around 20,000 households since it was launched last October. 

In that time, Masdar says the project has withstood one hurricane, one winter storm and waves as high as 8.2 metres, with production and availability above target in each of the three months from November to January.

The typical capacity factor for an offshore windfarm in winter, when the wind is at its strongest, is 45-60 per cent. Hywind Scotland, however, achieved an average of around 65 per cent: a capacity factor of 100 per cent means all wind turbines are generating their maximum output around the clock.

“These outstanding results illustrate the durability of floating wind technology and its ability to perform safely and above target in the toughest conditions,” said Bader Al Lamki, Executive Director for Clean Energy at Masdar.

“The extremely encouraging performance of Hywind Scotland is positive news for the development of future floating wind projects with our partners, and supports ongoing efforts to improve the cost efficiency of floating wind.”

Hywind Scotland’s first encounter with extreme weather was Hurricane Ophelia last October, when wind speeds of 35 metres a second (m/s) were recorded. Storm Caroline in early December was even stronger, with gusts in excess of 45 m/s (160 km/h) and waves as high as 8.2 metres.

Hywind Scotland’s wind turbines shut down for safety reasons when the storms were at their peak, but resumed operations afterwards automatically. A purpose-built pitch motion controller integrated with the turbine’s control system mitigates excessive movement.  

Irene Rummelhoff, Executive Vice-President for New Energy Solutions at Statoil, said:  “Knowing that up to 80 per cent of the offshore wind resources globally are in deep waters, where traditional bottom-fixed installations are not suitable, we see great potential for floating offshore wind – in Asia, the west coast of North America and Europe.”

Masdar and Statoil are also developing the battery storage project Batwind, which will store power generated by Hywind Scotland.

Hywind Scotland is Masdar’s second offshore wind project with Statoil, following the 402 MW Dudgeon Offshore windfarm, which was inaugurated last November. Combined with London Array, which remains the world’s largest offshore wind farm in operation, the three projects bring the total capacity of the UK renewable energy projects in which Masdar is an investor to more than 1000 MW. 

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Ramboll wind turbine anti-corrosion innovation wins award

A newly-developed method to protect the steel foundations of offshore wind turbines from corrosion has won an innovation award.

The under-construction offshore windfarm Arkona in the German Baltic Sea received the German Renewables Innovation Product of the Year award from the Clusteragentur Erneuerbare Energien, based in Hamburg.

Ramboll developed the anti-corrosion method for E.ON and Statoil to reduce the environmental impact and lower the construction costs of offshore wind farms.

During the 25-year operating life of an offshore wind farm, metal-dissolving corrosion is significantly reduced by the new method, and emissions to the sea are reduced by several hundred tonnes. The method is called TSA (thermally sprayed aluminium) and fully replaces the use of sacrificial anodes applied to the monopiles.

Andreas Willecke from Ramboll’s Wind & Towers division explained the fabrication process: “In the coating process, a robot sprays molten aluminium onto the up to 81 metre-long, 1200 tonnes-heavy monopile foundations using two arc burners. The surface is then sealed with synthetic resin.”

TSA has so far been used primarily as corrosion protection for smaller steel components under water or for larger components above water, such as offshore substations. Arkona is the first project to install all monopiles of an offshore wind farm using this corrosion protection technology.

According to E.ON, this set new standards for the construction and operation of offshore wind power plants.

The Arkona project is located 35 kilometres northeast of the island of Rügen and will have a capacity of 385 MW once it becomes operational in 2019. It will install 60 six-megawatt turbines based on monopile foundations designed by Ramboll.

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Poyry wins hydropower deal in Armenia

Pöyry has been awarded an engineering services and consultancy services contract for a feasibility study for a hydroelectric project in Armenia.

The Shnogh project is located along the Debed river in northern Armenia close to the border with Georgia border. 

Shnogh is a run-of-river plant which harnesses the water from the Debed and Martsiget rivers, which will be dammed behind a 25m high concrete weir, and conveyed to the powerhouse along a 19 km-long free-flow tunnel, a 230 metre pressure shaft, and a high pressure tunnel.

Two turbines with a capacity of 70 MW will be housed in a surface powerhouse located on the bank of the Debed River, in the vicinity of Neghots village. 

Pöyry’s assignment includes the review of existing documents and the basic studies, feasibility design of the selected alternatives, construction schedule, bill of quantities, cost estimate, economic evaluation and executive summary.  

The contract has been awarded by Debed Hydro, a new subsidiary of Energy Invest Holding CJSC, which will construct and operate the plant.

The Investors Club of Armenia will co-invest 15 per cent of the required finance.  

Richard Pinnock, president of Pöyry’s Energy Business Group, said: "Delivering clean, renewable energy projects in this region further strengthens Pöyry’s position as one of the world’s leading hydropower engineering consultancies. Armenia is an important country for hydropower development and we look forward to sharing our expertise in future projects."

The deal marks Poyry’s second hydropower award in Armenia in less than a year. Last year it was awarded an engineering and consultancy contract by Energy Invest Holding for the headworks rehabilitation project at the Dzora hydropower plant. 

The plant on the Dzoraget river has been operating since 1932. Pöyry prepared an inventory of the observed damages to the concrete structures and hydromechanical equipment. It also assessed the reduced operability or the expectable durability of the hydro-scheme based on a risk analysis and clarify the geological/geotechnical potential causes for the damages in view of designing proper countermeasures. 

Energy Invest Holding has four hydropower assets in Armenia as well as ArevEk, the first solar power plant in Armenia. With up to 1 MW capacity it being built at the highest elevation near the Makravan district of Hrazdan city. 

POYRY INDUSTRY INSIGHT: What will be the true impact of electric vehicles?

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IEA welcomes Mexico and praises Australia

Mexico has become the first Latin American member of the International Energy Agency.

The country became the IEA’s 30th member at the weekend, when Joaquín Coldwell, Mexico’s Energy Secretary, said: "With this final step, Mexico enters the most important energy forum in the world. We will take our part in setting the world’s energy policies, receive experienced advisory in best international practices, and participate in emergency response exercises."

IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol called it "an historic day”.

He said that “with more than 120 million inhabitants, an important oil producer, and a weighty voice in global energy, the ambitious and successful energy reforms of recent years have put Mexico firmly on the global energy policy map." 

Mexico is the world’s 15th-largest economy and 12th-largest oil producer, and has some of the world’s best renewable energy resources.

Meanwhile, the IEA has praised the “impressive” efforts that Australia has made to “ensure energy security and move ahead with market reform”.

Birol said: “Australia can develop its vast renewable resources and remain a cornerstone of global energy markets as a leading supplier of coal, uranium and liquefied natural gas, securing the energy for growing Asian markets."

Presenting an IEA report into the Australia energy sector in Canberra, he added: "A comprehensive national energy and climate strategy is needed for Australia to have a cleaner and more secure energy future. The National Energy Guarantee is a promising opportunity for Australia to integrate climate and energy policy."

The report says Australia should rely on long-term policy and energy market responses to strengthen energy security, foster competition, and make the power sector more resilient.  

In line with global trends, Australia’s energy system is undergoing a profound transformation, putting its energy markets under pressure. Concerns about affordable and secure energy supplies have grown in recent years, following several power outages, a tightening gas market in the east coast and rising energy prices.

Besides assessing progress since the IEA review of 2012, the Australian government requested the IEA to focus on how Australia can use global best practices in transitioning to a lower-carbon energy system. This question points to safeguarding electricity supply when ageing coal capacity retires, increased variable renewable energy comes on line and natural gas markets are tight.

Along with the US, Australia is leading the next wave of growth in liquefied natural gas. As a major exporter of coal, Australia is also a strong supporter of carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies. The report commends Australia’s efforts which can be critical globally to meeting long-term climate goals.

The IEA’s review points out that the sustainable development of new gas resources is critical for natural gas to play a growing role in the energy transition, “satisfying a growing domestic gas demand in power generation and industry and to honour export contracts at the same time”.

The report calls on Australia to continue efforts to improve transparency of gas pricing, boost market integration and facilitate access to transportation capacity.

International Energy Agency unveils first in-depth study into digitalization in the energy sector

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Russia outlines potential $620bn spend in power infrastructure upgrade

The Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation has presented its financial estimates for modernization and greenfield development in the power generation sector until 2035.

During a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Arkady Dvorkovich, the ministry’s officials announced an estimated $620bn (3,5 trillion rubles) will need to be released by 2035 for the purposes of investing in construction and modernization of the country’s power facilities.
Russia flag
The amount of money refers to financial resources to originate after the accomplishment of a CDA program (Capacity Delivery Agreement).

Initially, the ministry had stated that financial resources needed for modernization of thermal generation capacities would equal 1,5 trillion rubles. Updated calculations have now been made taking into consideration the development perspectives of power companies. 

Meanwhile RIA Novosti reports that Siemens expects to supply equipment to Russian energy companies under the modernization programme. The pledge was made by Dietrich Möller, the President of Siemens Russia and Central Asia, on the sidelines of the Russian Investment Forum held in Sochi.

Möller added that it is an ambitious programme that requires serious capital investments and equipment supply. Siemens hopes to give a full load to its local production in Russia (there are 10 Siemens manufacturing facilities operating in Russia).

Möller added that Siemens is not planning to expand localization of its production, as for gas turbines the localization level is about 55%, and they are considered to be Russian-manufactured.

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Man and BWSC to build gas-fired plant in Benin

A consortium featuring MAN Diesel & Turbo and Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC) has won a contract to build a 127 MW gas-fired power plant in Benin.

The Maria Gleta plant, which will be located near the major port city of Cotonou, will use seven of MAN’s 51/60 DF gas gensets, which will be delivered this year.

The plant is planned to run on natural gas as soon as a supply is available, MAN said, but will run on heavy fuel oil in the meantime.

MAN’s service business PrimeServ will supply spare parts and support of major maintenance under a long-term service agreement with BWSC, which will operate the plant.

Operation is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2019 and expansion to a total capacity of 400 MW is planned for the future.

The project is part of Benin’s scheme titled ‘Revealing Benin’, which centres around 45 flagship projects aimed at strengthening macroeconomic development, consolidating democracy and improving the living environment for the country’s citizens.  

Waldemar Wiesner, Head of Region MEA for MAN’s power plants business, said the plant’s fuel flexibility was “essential to ensure the immediate production of electrical energy, once the construction has been finalized.

“To date, only 30 per cent of the people of Benin have access to electricity, which is why the project is of great importance to increase national prosperity and to support the country’s growing economy,” he added.

 

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Another Brazilian solar installation for Enel

Enel’s subsidiary Enel Green Power Brasil Participações (EGPB) has started operations of its 103 MW Horizonte solar power plant, located in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Bahia.

Enel invested approximately $110m in the construction of Horizonte, as part of the investments foreseen in the company’s current strategic plan, and is financed through Enel Group’s own resources, as well as long-term financing provided by Banco do Nordeste.

The solar park is supported by a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Brazilian Chamber of Commercialisation of Electric Energy (Câmara de Comercialização da Energia Elétrica, CCEE).

The Horizonte solar facility is comprised of almost 330,000 solar panels and will be able to produce more than 220 GWh per year once fully operational.

Enel Green Power head Antonio Cammisecra said: “The entry into service of Horizonte marks a new milestone for the Group’s presence in the Brazilian solar market, where in just over eight months we added four projects for a total capacity of 807 MW, which include South America’s largest PV facility currently in operation, Nova Olinda.

In line with the Enel Group’s Creating Shared Value (CSV) model, which aims to combine business development and local community needs, EGPB has carried out initiatives to enable income generation for the communities neighbouring the plant, such as creative workshops for the manufacturing of furniture from recycled materials used in construction works.

In the state of Bahia, EGPB already operates 706 MW of wind capacity and 515 MW of solar capacity, which include, in addition to Horizonte, the 254 MW Ituverava and the 158 MW Lapa solar parks.

Energy Business Review reports that the Enel Group, through its subsidiaries EGPB and Enel Brasil, has a total installed renewable capacity of nearly 2.9 GW in Brazil, of which 842 MW comes from wind power, 819 MW from solar PV and 1270 MW from hydro.

 

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