Lorna Bennet was introduced to engineer from her art teacher.
I didn’t know engineering was a thing
Think of everything in your life that requires electricity. Consider the demands in a modern day household.
there is the electrification of other sources. So everybody’s looking at electric cars, electric trains, electric buses. So you’re turning away from fossil fuels and trying to use more electricity. So if we’re having to burn fossil fuels to make electricity, then you’ve got a kind of redundancy going on there as well.
Lorna Bennet talks to us about her concerns with the supply to the energy ecosystem.
there’s been projections of all the future development and what’s going to be required to be able to meet the requirements
The solution has to rely on more than one technology. The solution is a group of power supplies all working together in a synergistic way.
So it’s always going to be a mix, it’s always going to be a balance.
Links discussed during the episode
Lorna loves bridges.
I love bridges, I really love bridges
She especially loves the 3 bridges over the River Forth that showcase 3 centuries of bridge building.
3 Bridges over 3 centuries over the River Forth
it can be so simple or so elaborate. It’s an infinitely versatile structure
Lorna doesn’t just admire one single engineer, she admires an entire group….
all of the women from the early years of the Womens Engineering Society, who basically have enabled me to have an engineering degree
Lorna Bennet is a Mechanical Engineer from the University of Glasgow, with her Masters degree from Newcastle University.
She works for Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the UK’s world’s leading technology innovation and research centre for offshore renewable energy
Lorna has been a very energetic STEM Ambassador since 2010 and has dedicated a significant amount of personal and professional time to STEM engagement programmes.
In recognition for her work, Lorna was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Award to set up a pilot STEM engagement strategy with four local primary schools in Glasgow In March 2018. And in December 2018, she received the Womens Engineering Society Prize for the best Young Woman Engineer
This is a “close” copy of the words that were spoken during the Podcast, Season 2 Episode 5. It is not 100% accurate.
The guest was Lorna Bennet.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Mel De Gioia 0:25
Hi, welcome to season two episode five of engineering hears a podcast that presents the entities that are shaping our society and battling out challenging issues. My name is Mel
and I’m Dom. Now we all know climate change is a massive issue. And there’s a push to clean renewable energy society is moving away from burning of coal, which just got us through the Industrial Revolution. And as our demand for electricity grows, the ability to keep up with clean and green renewable supply is becoming more challenging, not only for engineers, but for society as a whole.
Mel De Gioia 1:00
Think of everything in your life right now that requires electricity. Consider the demands in a modern day household if you will. They will be electric vehicles, cars, bikes, anything like that. multiple devices, phones, telephones, tablets, ducted air conditioning, fridges, dryers, maybe even electrical lawn mower. And perhaps let’s throw in a pool, just to be sure, will solar power be able to sustain all of this on its own? Our guest talks to us about her concerns with the supply to the energy ecosystem. Because the solution has to rely on more than one technology. The solution is a group of power supplies all working together in a synergistic way.
Lorna Bennett reached out to us through the women’s Engineering Society, who was celebrating 100 years just like Engineers Australia. Lorna is a mechanical engineer who works at Offshore Renewable Energy company Catapult. In her career, she’s been able to combine mechanical design and research with the marine and renewable energy industry to help start addressing these problems.
Mel De Gioia 2:06
In December 2018, Lorna was awarded the Womens Engineering Society prize for the best young woman engineer, such an incredible achievement.
It was quite incredible. And the other ladies that I met during the the shortlist and the attributes for the female, and are incredible engineers and their own areas and their own rights. And everybody’s working on so many different things. I can’t imagine the challenge the judges had trying to compare apples and oranges and decide who is who should win the awards. And but it was it was absolutely a fantastic event and a fantastic campaign that they’ve been running for the last 40 odd years. And they’ve been doing some fantastic work promoting engineering to skills. And the way to
Mel De Gioia 2:56
That’s an amazing achievement. Why are you an engineer?
That’s quite a complicated story, actually. Because I didn’t know engineering was a thing. When I was at school, I stumbled across it totally by accident, university open day that I technically shouldn’t really have been at my high school art teacher encouraged me and one of my classmates and fifth year of high school to seek out with him in the final year students to go to the Glasgow School of Art open day. And that was when I discovered product design engineering and realized that it was exactly what I wanted to do, because it was so much creativity and design and innovation, but also you’re making something practical, physical, that’s the whole purpose was to, you know, try and improve the world and make a difference.
It’s really cool that your art teacher actually got you into it as well, because everyone’s done. We’ve talked about this before I run things, engineering, math, science, but that’s it. Whereas it’s, it’s all encompassing. And yeah, it is, it’s art, its design, its
creativity was needed. And actually, it was, I was always very practical. I always love building things. And it was my parents were fantastic. They always encouraged me to do what I enjoyed. And my dad was working so much because my mom had to give up work when she had children. And there was no part time work for her writings at that time. And the only time I really got to spend quality time with my dad was doing the DIY his weekends off. So we were always building things around the house and fixing things and, and, you know, creating weird things in the garden, I built my own treehouse, or attempted to build my family off cut from some of the shelving and things we’ve been doing in the house. So I was always wanted to be outdoors and building and creating and the idea of being able to, you know, fix your own tricky task and build your own shelves and be self sustainable was always a big impact on what I want you to do. And engineering allows me to do that.
Mel De Gioia 5:03
Will your high school self be happy about where you are now?
I absolutely think that I would be happy back then for where I know that I’m not chained to a desk just in doing computer work. And I’m not stuck out in a field in the rain all day. And somewhere in between them out in the fields, doing fun projects and traveling the world meeting interesting people and having really unusual and exciting conversations about some of the most bizarre things that universal about or you never even knew existed but your skill and it’s just so, so diverse and so creative. And there’s just so many areas to go into some believable, where are you exactly now what are you working on at the moment. So now I work for the offshore renewable energy, catapult and Glasgow and we are UK breeding Center for Innovation and all things offshore renewable energy. So my job known as to work with basically everybody and anybody who has any interest in the advancement of offshore renewable energy. So we am are quite often considered as bridging the gap between research and industry and trying to pull academic research through into wider industry, working with technology developers, new innovative SMEs have new technology ideas. Our role is to help inventors basically realize their dreams and commercialize their ideas and new technologies that can be used within the industry to try and make the whole industry as fun and improve society.
Is it wind farms its tidal, it’s all
yeah, everything’s … so largely an offshore wind farms because that’s a well established growing in industry. But a lot of the projects we also work on are the kind of research and development of title energy and, and trying to go through some, some we are researching things as well, which are still very much developing and trying to establish technology to commercialize. So it’s pretty interesting and pretty varied. One of my main tasks is working with researchers to provide data information and access to an actual offshore wind turbine. And we work with technology developers, SMEs and other companies who are looking to diversify from other industries, such as oil and gas, and to the offshore wind and industry. Some do a lot of technology demonstrations, what condition monitoring, operations and maintenance and access systems to try and help and innovate new solutions, and make the industry grow.
Mel De Gioia 7:59
This is a podcast on a mission. Our mission is to promote engineers and the way they work throughout all of society. You might wonder how we doing this? Well, that is a work in progress. I’m trying a number of different ways. And I’d love for you to join Dom & I on this mission. If you want to show your support for engineers, and this podcast, the best thing you can do is go tell someone. Seriously mention the podcast Engineering Heroes to someone you know, and pass the word along. And if you don’t know anyone, there’s always the review option on your pod catching app. The best way to keep up with what’s going on in the world of Engineering Heroes is to sign up to our newsletter. That’s on our website, www.engineeringheroes.com.au. Go and sign up and help us spread the news about the amazing work that engineers are doing all over the world. Now back to Lorna as she was just about to start talking about hot topics of the engineering industry.
I think one of the main issues as highlighted perfectly by the fact that the UK Government recently announced a climate crisis a acknowledging the fact that climate change, and the need for renewable energy sources is going to be a massive global issue that needs to be solved. And quite urgently. So in the UK, we have a massive supply of offshore wind power, the rest of the world is starting to catch up, China has declared massive growth in that area. Europe has been slowly adding to that and I engine here Australia is starting to look at Oh sure, one third as well. And one of the main restrictions to growth that we have been seeing as an industry as supply chain that can keep up with demand. So one of the areas, some of my colleagues have been working on in particular, looking at how to advance that supply chain and getting supply chain ready for the massive boom, an offshore wind farm development and installation over the next 12 years. The UK Government has targets for 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. And so there’s gonna be a massive increase and requirements for energy as the materials and equipment to be able to supply that energy.
It’s always the interesting thing with energy as well, but it’s not slowing down. So we’re finding new and exciting ways to chew up energy, and ways to produce more. So even the even though we’re getting more efficient, there’s more of us, we’re doing more things. So we have to be, you know, we really need to step up their game in regards to getting that energy generation equipment out there as quickly as we possibly can.
And there is the electrification of other sources. So everybody’s looking at electric cars, electric trains, electric buses. So you’re turning away from fossil fuels and trying to use more electricity. So if we’re having to burn fossil fuels to make electricity, then you’ve got a kind of redundancy going on there as well.
That’s the thing, you look at the electric cars, and you’re going to get the energy from somewhere to power the electric cars. So unless we’re doing something like right at the front end, then you still got the same problem trickle India is
Mel De Gioia 11:28
You’re just bumping the source. Yeah, I just wanted to go back to something that you said that was I that really stood out to me at the beginning. And I’ll definitely come back to the supply chain issue that you’re talking about. But the UK Government has actually claimed a climate crisis. So one of the things in season one, and one of our earliest answers was that we can’t have change until we have policy certainty. So are you essentially saying, claiming this crosses, that you guys are now facing policy certainty, you’re getting that so you can make movements?
The hope is that there is movement in that direction. Yes. So the government declared the climate crisis. And they are now opening up revenues or avenues for further renewable energy developments. So the one of the major discussions over the last month has been whether they re permit people to build onshore wind farms, because they banned the construction of offshore wind farms for the last few years. And there’s a couple of tidal energy projects that have been kind of suspended, that they’re now hoping to try and push through and actually encourage the development of. So we’re starting to see steps. And those directions, there’s new incentives and initiatives are in recycling, and areas like that as well. So we’re hoping, as with anything policy related, it takes a long time, it’s got to go through however many layers of bureaucracy and decision making before it becomes a paper document that can be then signed then agreed upon and ratified by everybody. So it’s a slow process, but the the initial declaration as a big step forward compared to where we were.
Mel De Gioia 13:22
That’s a great start, honestly, from everything I’ve learned about how to fix the climate crisis, a government backing, and acknowledging that they need to do something is a big step to getting industry on board and getting it moving forward. So that’s, that’s an awesome first step. But you were saying that the issue is, now that everyone’s like, Yay, let’s do renewable energies, you can’t keep up with the demand? Is that what supply chain that you’re talking about?
Yeah, so there’s been projections of all the future development and what’s going to be required to be able to meet the requirements, and whether manufacturers and suppliers can actually keep up with the supply of those demands. So one of the projects that we’re working on here at the Catapult is looking at supply chain. And we’ve actually launched an initiative called set for offshore, which is looking at helping companies develop their own manufacturing processes, and streamlining them and making sure that they meet all the required ISO standards and environmental conditions and making sure the older equipment as up to the required quality. And the manufacturing processes are streamlined as possible, to you know, help them manufacture as much as they need as fast as they need.
So you’re really across the board with the it’s what you’re doing everything from helping from manufacturing all the way through to R&D, you know, helping companies that are actually…. that’s awesome
The way we are absolutely everything, which is why it’s so interesting, because I say I’m very happy with where I am, from what I thought back at school, because every day is different. You’re working on different projects with different people, and it’s just so varied, you never know what’s going to happen next.
Mel De Gioia 15:21
So you’ve got a goal of I’m going to tell I always make up numbers. 98% of all statistics are made up on the spot. But you said there was a goal of 30 megawatts, 30 gigawatts, there was a lot of thirties in there for me to remember. Um, so is this potential supply chain issue is that going to impact that goal of 30 and 2030?
one of one of the main focuses obviously, at Catapult, as part government funded through government, the government body and Innovate UK. And so a lot of what we do is focusing on trying to improve the UK supply chain. And some of the contracts that are being issued for offshore installations, you’ve got to have a certain percentage of local supply chain in those constructions. So if we can help build a supply chain, so that it’s there and it’s ready, and it’s available, then the companies are installing offshore and building the wind farms that not really got much of an excuse to go elsewhere in the world. There’s lots of countries now looking to offshore wind power to be the bulk supply of electricity around the world and take a step back from fossil fuels
Mel De Gioia 16:50
can wind supply actually sustain our energy demands?
No, it’s always going to be a balance. So if you are hoping to rely on wind power, one of the main arguments from people that don’t like renewable energies is the wind doesn’t move all the time. So you need some form of energy storage. At the moment, battery technology doesn’t really meet that it’s not, it’s not the bulk storage that we need. So there’s been a lot of research into hydrogen power. So hydrogen can be used to induce the excess electricity when we don’t need it from the wind farms. Rather than turning them off, which is what happens at the moment, too much electricity in the grid, you use the excess electricity to generate hydrogen through electrolytes. So all you need is water, and you get water and electricity to make hydrogen and oxygen. So some hydrogen stations, they only capture the hydrogen. But if you also captured the oxygen, and you can supply your health service, you’re diving industries, you know, everybody uses oxygen, everybody needs oxygen. And hydration can be used, to power vehicles can be used to burn as gas, so you can use it to remake electricity or in your cookers or your gas boilers and things. So hydrogen is looking like the most likely at the moment for bulk storage. but obviously, on the days that it’s not as windy, there usually tend to be able to sun so solar power can balance as well, and, and Scotland we have a lot of hydro power as well. So there’s always going to be a mix. And so nuclear energy is still considered, it is not considered fossil fuel in the same sense, it’s still not entirely green, but it’s a lot more environmentally friendly than burning coal or gas. And, and there’s considered that nuclear is good to be kept as like a base, but then it would be you know, 80/90% renewable energy on top of that, and then nuclear is just there as a backup one in peak times if we can’t find a proper storage facility or electricity. So it’s always going to be a mix, it’s always going to be a balance.
Mel De Gioia 19:09
That’s a great because Dom is a huge Hydrogen fan.
Yeah, I think it’s definitely something I could do is going to be the way forward, I think
Mel De Gioia 19:18
In Australia it’s definately pulling that way. Although recently, and a few episodes ago, we were speaking to an engineer called Alice, who’s a nuclear engineer. And she really turned my head about nuclear energy and the potential and it’s actually been allocated as a renewable resource by an international body. So she was very excited. That was the first time that it happened. So it kind of opened my eyes like, Oh, it’s not just hydrogen, it’s nuclear than. So I’m wondering if there’s going to be a hydrogen or nuclear race. But it was interesting what you were just saying how you’ve tied in renewables, hydrogen, and nuclear all together into being a single unit, almost an ecosystem an, energy ecosystem.
And that’s the, that’s when renewables are really wonderful when you’re not just focusing on one component of it, but you’re actually looking at all the various other things that come with it. So then there’s no waste, they do not. They said, you know, to sort of having to turn off the the wind turbines and sit back Go are we’ve done what we need to do. Now let’s
Mel De Gioia 20:32
even just using like the peak energy to power, the hydrogen creation, it’s just like, that was awesome. Yeah, that’s great. And but the main concern, though, is this is a beautiful ecosystem that you explained. But can we actually keep up with the demand? Do we have the systems in place to build this structure,
so have it having a supply chain there, having ready, but as you said, because it’s always going to be a balance, an ecosystem, and you need to have the combination. And, you know, the across the board thinking, so it’s not just focusing on this wind farm, how does that tie in and trying to, you know, make these cross links and make these connections and create collaborations and kind of move everybody forward. Because if everybody’s working on one little thing, somebody over there might be working on the same thing, or something that would make both of them better. So trying to get all those collaborations working.
And we were speaking someone was it was, Francis, who was sort of saying Iran sort of looks at the big oil companies and guys, you’re evil, but in reality, they’re in the energy market. So they’re exploring all these new ways, and the renewable resources and things like that, as well. And I have all the technology from, from what they’ve been doing for years, and they’re trying to move. So more often than not the they’re the ones who kind of need the help to sort of move across because they’re getting there. And I suppose everyone sort of looks at them in a in a bad light. But in reality, it’s they just supplying the energy that we need now with the resources that have available in the hopes that they too can move across too because otherwise they would be defunct if they don’t move with the times,
Absolutely, but there are certain oil companies that have made that transition. So DONG energy, formerly Dutch oil and gas, decided to put their money where their mouth is and they totally stepped back divested all of their oil and gas assets to focus on their renewable energy generation. So a lot of the oil companies are moving towards renewables, but slowly, and whereas DONG put their money where their mouth is they got rid of all the oil and gas assets, and they moved to predominately wind power, they want a lot of offshore wind farms, among many other things. And they changed their name to ORSET, which is to show their commitment to green energy and green energy growth.
Mel De Gioia 22:28
What are your thoughts of the future of engineering in this space?
Well, I think the only real way for renewable energy is you know, it’s kind of onwards and upwards. There’s so much research going in, there’s so much innovation and creativity. They’re looking at robotics, for instance, robotics is a massive area at the moment in trying to automate certain mundane tasks that are incredibly boring and repetitive for humans to do, or removing some of the more dangerous tasks where you know, it’s life threatening if it goes wrong. So having the technology development behind the robots themselves, mechanically, mechatronically the electronics, the software, the programming, the AI that people are looking at, so they can learn how to do their job better. And it’s it’s incredible, the advancements in the amount of knowledge and cross knowledge that’s needed to develop these systems. And it’s so exciting. And the teams that are coming together to do these, it, there’s just so many interesting things and looking at the future technologies. When some of my colleagues here they look kind of 50 years into the future what could wind power look like 50 years in the future. And here’s a small area developing and growing all the time looking at airborne wind, which is how we use kites 300 meters up in the air to generate electricity instead of having to build 200 meter high structures.
Mel De Gioia 24:39
That sounds awesome.
And what would you say to people who are just starting out in engineering,
just find what you enjoy, you know, if you have a hobby, and you know, music, or art or theatre, anything, there is a form of engineering to do with that, you know, engineering is literally everywhere, and in everything you do. You’re toothbrush and your toothpaste in the morning to airplanes and rockets. And, you know, just everything is engineering. And if you enjoy your particular thing, then you will find a form of engineering to be able to do that. For the rest of your life.
Mel De Gioia 25:15
This has been an incredible journey. Yeah, just it really gave me a new slogan – Energy Ecosystem. Throw that one out there to everyone. But I’d love to know just to wrap up. What’s a piece of engineering that impresses you
I don’t have one specific thing in mind, but I love bridges, I really love bridges. Like, I was, I think my I wanted to do my advanced higher art projects my final year at school on a bridge because I just I love bridges. And they’re just, you know, it’s, it can be so simple or so elaborate. It’s an infinitely versatile structure. And, you know, it said this it was you know, necessity and a lifesaver for so many people for so many hundreds, thousands of years. And and yeah, I just love bridges
You’re in good company because there’s a lot of the people that we’ve spoken to, I think if you did a if we went back through all of our podcast, I’d say bridges rate number one, and people tend to have their favourite bridges as well.
Mel De Gioia 26:27
I was going to ask, do you have a favorite bridge?
So I think where it started was I saw a beautiful image, I think it’s called the Camelback bridge in China. And it this beautiful, it’s this really high arched stone bridge. And it looks impossible. And it’s just stunning. And since then, you know, we’ve now got three major bridges from three centuries, spanning the River Forth just north of Edinburgh, when you cross one of the bridges, you can see three bridges built in three separate centuries. And it shows you the advancement of engineering and those times of and it’s such an amazing, beautiful picture, I’ll send you a picture.
So And finally, do you have an engineer’s that you admire?
Not one specifically, as you said, it’s the hundredth anniversary of the Womens Engineering Society in the UK. So the women’s Engineering Society was founded in 1919, when all the the men that had been fighting in the First World War returned home, and all the women that had been running the country running the factories in their absence, were told thanks very much. But you can go home and make your husband his dinner. They bonded together, I think there was 20 founding members that basically fought for their entire lives to be engineers to be allowed to be engineers to be able to do engineering and help rebuild their country after the war. And I think I don’t think a single one of them could be singled out, because it’s down to all of them. And all of the women from the women’s, the early years of the Womens Engineering Society who basically have enabled me to have an engineering degree and work in this incredible industry. And, you know, it’s starting to, you know, the small acts as well as the big acts, you know, not everybody can be the first to do something, but, and all of these women have paved the way and pulled women through with the men to engineering to help the industry grow and bring that extra creativity and that different way of thinking to, you know, help make the world a better place.
Mel De Gioia 28:41
I’ve been following Women Engineers Society on Instagram, they’ve got some amazing photos from theie archives that they keep putting up there. It’s it’s also it’s awesome to see and to read some of the stuff that the members have done over the years. Thank you so much for showing up today and spending some time with us to explain about your engineering journey. It’s been absolutely amazing,
Yeah, thank you so much it was wonderful.
Thank you for having me. It’s been delightful to speak to you.
Mel De Gioia 29:12
And thank you for tuning in to another episode of engineering heroes. If you enjoyed today’s show, please go and tell someone our main point of call for all information about our podcast and the things that we’re doing and whatever we’re up to is our website, www.engineeringheroes.com.au Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to our episode today. We look forward to you joining us next week when we bring you another interview with one of our engineering champions.