Dr Nancy McLean | International Women's Day interview

Can you tell us about your career and how you came to be involved in renewables and more specifically offshore wind?
I started working life as an academic, lecturing in biology at the medical faculty at Edinburgh University for five years. I have a degree in biochemistry, a PhD in plant biochemistry and spent a good few years working in laboratories in a white coat. Then I was looking for a new challenge and I met the owners of a renewables consultancy and the rest is history…..I moved on from lecturing biochemistry and how your body works to consenting onshore wind projects in Scotland.An obvious career move, really… When the offshore industry developed in Scottish Waters through the Round 3 and Scottish Territorial Waters tender rounds, I made sure I was in the right place at the right time to extend my wind farm consenting knowledge from onshore to offshore.

How long have you worked in renewables?
I’ve worked in the industry for years. I spent six years consenting onshore wind projects before transitioning to offshore wind projects around nine years ago. Eventually, I was Head of Offshore for Natural Power which involved everything from site feasibility, to environmental assessments and consent management, to helping to develop an asset management competency within the consultancy. I’ve been with EDF Renewables UK for a couple of months and am really looking forward to leading the team to develop our offshore aspirations through the Round 4 and ScotWind processes.

Would you recommend a job in the renewables industry and why?    
For me this is about the feel good factor. I love the fact that I am making a real contribution to Scotland and the UK’s low carbon future. You do have to put your heart and soul into every project, and not everything you work on will come to fruition. But you learn something new every time, and you can use that knowledge to help solve problems that you are bound to encounter in the next project. I also enjoy meeting people across the industry, and there is a lot of scope for that within renewables, which helps you develop further.

What is your advice on becoming part of the industry?
Get involved. There’s so much information online you can read about, so do your homework and then find people in the industry to talk to. We are a very friendly bunch! You then need to look for opportunities and grasp them. Finding out as much as possible will give you the confidence in yourself and the contribution you can make before making the leap. And there are not enough women involved, particularly in offshore wind.

Looking back do you think being a lecturer has helped you in your current profession?
Yes! I am a scientist at heart.I understand the requirement to establish a baseline, and to design data collection methods that provide robust data sets for the purpose required. That requirement may be impact assessment or it may be post consent monitoring, both are very different processes that require a different approach to survey design.It is all about understanding and addressing the questions arising at distinct project phases.

I’ve used this understanding when I was working with stakeholders and academics to establishment methodologies to predict responses of marine mammals to piling noise from offshore wind farm construction activities, and in the design of the surveys to investigate how conservative our assumptions within the impact assessment process were.

I do still like to see tangible results that enables the understanding of impacts derived from post consent monitoring from projects I have been involved with, helping to delivery robust impact assessments for our projects of the future. And I do like talking about it.

What do you do to unwind?
I have two border terriers (Chewbacca and Molly) so there is a lot of dog walking! I guess you could say I am the sporty type, and I enjoy cycling, hillwalking, running and skiing as well.


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