Photo:

Peter Burgess

Favourite Thing: Find out new things and put them into practice

My CV

Education:

11-16: Holy Trinity, Halifax. (1995-2000) 16-18: Greenhead College. (2000-2002) Universities: Imperial College (2002-2007), University of Reading (2010-2015)

Qualifications:

A levels – Physics/Maths/Chemistry/French, MSci Physics with French, MSc Environmental Technology (with Energy Policy), EngD Solar Irradiance data for solar power.

Work History:

Current Job:

Solar power performance analyst

Employer:

Solarcentury

Me and my work

I make sure solar power systems are running as well as they can

I write computer code to make charts and tables for all our sites so we can find out where sites, or parts of sites are not doing as well as they could.

I test our design models against data from completed sites to make sure our models give an accurate picture of what will happen when we build a new solar power system.

I think a lot about the environment which is why I work in solar power, ride a bike everywhere (longest trip – about 500 miles in a week; normal week at work – about 90 miles), and try to keep to a 1/3 vegan, 1/3 vegetarian, 1/3 omnivore diet (This is my compromise solution to the impact of my diet on the environment).

My Typical Day

Finding ways to improve our solar power systems

 

I have a typical month more than I have a typical day.

At the start, I gather all the data I need to review the performance from the last month and run a series of tests. When that’s done, I will look at the results and arrange for problems to be checked out. Sometimes I can tell based on the data what needs to be done, other times it needs someone to go visit the site in person.

When the monthly checks are finished, I often work on a new piece of analysis – at the moment, I’m working on a process to analyse the performance of all the inverters on our sites. Inverters are the brains of a solar power system, converting dc power from the solar panels to ac power for the grid, and sending lots of performance data in the process. There can be anything from ten large inverters to a thousand small ones on our sites. Looking at all of them at once means we can quickly see small drops in performance by comparing across all the inverters.

I go to meetings with our engineering team to feed back what we have learned from looking at site performance so they can improve their design processes, and with companies we buy from or partner with to find better ways to do things.

I will also look for new research in solar power performance that our company can apply in our work.

What I'd do with the money

Given myself super powers and Work with Solar Aid

I’d like to do two things with the money.

First, I would like to buy a thermal camera add-on for a smartphone. Seeing in infra-red can give you lots of information on lots of things that you can’t see with just your eyes.

Thermal imaging is one of the key tools for diagnosing faults within solar power systems, a good rule of thumb in anything electronic is that if something is getting hotter than everything else there’s something wrong, solar power is no different.

I’m also a big believer in energy efficiency so I would use the thermal imaging camera to take pictures of my house and my office to see where heat is being lost through the windows, walls and roof.

One more thing you can do with thermal imaging is a really neat explanation of the greenhouse effect. The recipe is: Carbon dioxide, a plastic bag and a thermal imaging camera to reveal what’s going on.

I’d convert that into a series of videos that show some of the cool things you can find see when you go beyond visible light.

That won’t spend all the money though so I’d also like to work with Solaraid, the charity set up by my company to bring solar light to Africa, to help them developing their resources for schools and help with their education activities both here and in Africa.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

optimistic, nerdy, pretty green (that’s four)

Who is your favourite singer or band?

My radio has one setting: 6Music

What's your favourite food?

I like simple things done with good ingredients.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Music festivals, snowboarding, and I did a falconry lesson in September which was awesome.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wasn’t sure. Not an engineer. (Now I’m an applied scientist which is pretty much an engineer)

Were you ever in trouble at school?

No, I was one of the smart kids that tried to stay out of the way. Still am.

What was your favourite subject at school?

I liked languages, I’m best at sciences. I ended up studying Physics with French at university because I didn’t want to give them up

What's the coolest job related to physics you've come across?

A friend of mine is an astronomer that lives in Hawai’i. It’s a pretty cool place for physics to take you.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

I want the ability to teleport and/or stop time. I want a planet with a sensible climate when I’m older. I want to stay happy.

Tell us a joke.

The government’s energy policy is a sick joke. I’m not laughing.

What do you think is the best physics discovery in history?

The photovoltaic effect!

Other stuff

Work photos: