Wind worker focus in Wind Directions magazine
From underwater survey work to managing the operation of a wind farm, we meet some of the over 200,000 people who make the European wind industry tick. In this issue of Wind Directions, we meet Teresa Arlabán, Research and Patents Manager, Acciona Windpower.
What does your job involve?
Within the Research and Patents area our activities are related to four main topics: research projects; technological survey; promotion of creativity and management of the ideas of the R&D department and also management of the patent portfolio.
Some of the research projects are funded by the Spanish government, some others granted with EU funding - these are really challenging projects dealing mostly with bigger, more powerful wind turbines. The topics in which I get involved within these projects are related to new drive train designs and to new controllers for grid integration and for load minimisation during voltage dips.
We also perform technical surveys to see what competitors are doing, find out about the latest improvements in components and so on. We promote creativity within R&D department through problem-solving brainstorming sessions. And we manage ideas within the R&D department, in order to adequately protect any of them that can provide a competitive advantage to Acciona Windpower, being also novel and inventive, by means of a patent application.
How did you come to work in a job related to the wind energy industry?
I became connected to wind power six years ago. In 2006 I finished my degree in Industrial Engineering, I was looking for a company to do my MSc Thesis and found the possibility of carrying it out within Acciona Windpower with a research scholarship. It was related to grid integration, more specifically to reactive power generation for voltage control but with the particularity that the control method developed provided thermal optimisation of the behaviour of the electrical components and it was one of the first patent applications of the company. In July 2007 I got a contract with Acciona and started to work as an engineer within the Research and Patents area and in July 2012 I was promoted to the manager’s position of that area.
Do you come across many other women engineers in the industry?
We make up just 20-25% of the R&D department in my company. Also, I’ve been going to some of EWEA events and I think there are not so many women involved in engineering activities: during the conferences we can see we do not make half of the audience. But we are an increasing in number I think, the involvement of women within the sector is growing.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me starts with a look at my Outlook, my emails, and dealing with the most urgent matters. Once I have solved them, I can dedicate time to my regular tasks - which can be either patent applications or some research, i.e. performing a study or some calculations. Quite frequently also I have to attend or organise a meeting to revise how the different projects and tasks are evolving.
The activities which are not really challenging, I try to do them as fast as possible – for example administrative issues like revising bills or asking for some purchase orders or filling some forms – I also try to finish them at the beginning of the day. Then, as I said, I start with the activities I enjoy most.
Do you work in a team?
We are right now just a group of four, but we’re looking for others to join the department. Each of us works on a different topic related to wind energy - one is an expert in control, another in blades technology, or mechanical issues. It isn’t a big team so far but our work involves cooperation with other departments and we are a group of professionals who are passionate about the job. I really enjoy leading this small team, it has been a great experience.
Do you have to travel for your work?
Most of the time I have to travel to participate in meetings related to different research projects. I do one trip a month sometimes more often. It is another part of my job that I enjoy very much, the opportunity to work with experts from various organisations, frequently various countries.
I also participate in conferences, often with presentations of my department’s works, for example at EWEA conferences and grid integration related events.
What is your favourite and your least favourite part of your job?
That’s difficult to answer because so many things which involve a challenge are really motivating for me, as for example problem solving. I really like and enjoy when some colleagues within the R&D department get together to perform creativity sessions to find the best solutions to the technical issues referring to big- ger wind turbines, system designs, control methods and logistics.
What I least like is all the bureaucracy and administrative tasks, they are so repetitive but they’re also quite complex so you have to be careful with the details not to have to do them twice!
Read the full February issue of Wind Directions