Ciara Doyle is a Siemens plant engineer at Calon Energy’s Severn Power. She was lucky enough to win a competition to go to Antarctica with two colleagues from Calon. Since returning Ciara has been inspired to look at ways to improve the efficiency of operations at Severn Power and to spread the word on the importance of engineers in combatting climate change.
“You see so much in the news about climate change that you can almost switch off, not knowing what to believe,” she says. “My main desire was to visit a place that few get to experience and to meet people from different backgrounds.”
The trip last March proved inspirational. Not only because of what she saw – an ice landscape that most of us see only through satellite images – but because of the people she was with.
The expedition was led by explorer Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both poles. It was part of his 2041mission, named because 2041 is when a 50-year treaty protecting Antarctica from exploitation could come to an end.
“Rob is a very compelling character and totally inspiring. He’s devoted his life to protecting the world’s last great wilderness,” says Ciara. “But equally inspiring were the other people I met on the trip, people who had given up their jobs to do amazing projects.”
She cites several examples, including a man who trains women living in remote villages in India to use solar technology. “Men tend to go to the cities when they acquire these skills. His focus is on reaching the women who stay behind.”
Ciara and her Calon colleagues wondered how, as power plant workers, they would be received. “Everybody was incredibly welcoming. What you come to realise is that we can all be doing something, whatever our background. The answer isn’t to protest, but to look at what you can do for the environment from inside industry.”
Sean Grundy, Siemens station manager at Severn Power, is totally supportive. “Sean has expanded my role as a plant engineer to focus much more on energy efficiency and our use of resources at Severn.
“We’re liaising with Siemens experts to look at ways of improving our monitoring capability. The digitalisation team can help us to better monitor the efficiency of our gas usage and other key parameters.
“Water usage, including minimising leaks, and energy usage are further target areas. We’re talking to colleagues about installing water meters around the site and we’ve visited other Siemens operations to see energy efficient systems that are already installed. We want to make rapid strides.”
The trips have also led Ciara to reflect on the role scientists and engineers have in combatting climate change. She’s started going into local schools to highlight opportunities and to make the link with the environment, a subject many young people feel strongly about“I want them to know what engineers can do and capture their imagination.”
“We were incredibly lucky enough to go on an expedition that showed us the bigger picture, and we came back really wanting to make a difference. But we don’t want to just show our colleagues a lot of holiday snaps. We want to keep the experience going through actions rather than words.”