Advanced Commissioning Engineer Suzanna Bryant reveals how a previous job on super-yachts led to a career contributing to a cleaner energy future.
My role involves connecting new green energy sources to the network, such as solar farms, interconnectors and battery storage, in a safe and efficient way. I also manage existing equipment to ensure that it doesn’t have any adverse effects on the environment, such as leaking oil or SF6 gas. I’m mainly based at Sellindge in Kent, where the IFA1 2000MW DC Interconnector to France is converted to AC power.
I used to work for a company that installed digital systems to reduce the amount of wiring and automate the electrical supplies on super-yachts. It involved a lot of travel around Europe. The detrimental impact of the flying on my carbon footprint, and the extravagant lifestyle that the yachts stood for, had a great impact on my environmental awareness and this encouraged me to look for a different career – one that was greener. I went on to join National Grid in 2010.
As a teenager I felt responsible for my surroundings and my impact on them. I started cycling and walking to school, and recycling as much as I could. I’ve always been quite conscious of water and energy wastage too.
I wanted a career in engineering after I learnt about the apprenticeship scheme my brother had joined. I saw that change was coming in the energy sector and wanted to be a part of that movement to help protect the earth’s climate. I studied Power System Engineering at Aston University and completed two engineering apprenticeships, the second with National Grid, which is now known as a Higher Apprenticeship.
The highlight of my job, apart from being the first woman to achieve the Advanced Commissioning Engineer (ACE) authorisation status, is that moment when the new equipment is first energised and becomes part of the network. There’s a great sense of achievement thinking about all the work that has been done to get to that point.
Technology is changing so quickly and new equipment is introduced all the time – I don’t think I will ever stop learning or finding interesting things to do in my role.
Generally, the aspect of my work that makes me proudest is leading the way for other women to become engineers, helping to make the energy sector greener. I think I’d like my legacy to be the equipment and connections that I help commission and bring onto the network – green energy such as solar farms.
I hope that eventually we can move away from using equipment with SF6 gas as the insulator. It’s quite harmful for the environment but very good at what it’s used for. There are new solutions being trialled and hopefully they’ll soon be widely available.
I’d like to see more people around the world realise the impact of climate change and act accordingly. Even if we all just do a little bit, like recycling or cycling more, it adds up.
I’ve become vegetarian with vegan ‘tendencies’. It was hard at first balancing nutrition and finding alternatives – like learning to cook all over again. I also cycle to work when I can and I have a new company EV for when I can’t cycle.
Now I own my own home, I’ve given over half my garden to wildlife, with bird feeders and a pond, rabbits, newts and a visiting weasel and kestrel.
…Chris Packham. His enthusiasm for British wildlife is inspiring. His passion for defending against the injustices towards wildlife in the UK and around the world is demonstrated by his being a director for Wild Justice.