What did I need to learn to do this job?
Back in school, my favourite subjects were maths, geography and physics. I find working on a maths problem and figuring out a solution rewarding. I have a university degree in engineering with a specialisation in electrical engineering and electronics, which took me four years to do.
For my job, you need to be good at analysing and solving problems and know about weather and wind turbines. It is also important to be able to communicate well and work in a team.
Swarna Priya Natarajan, 30, India
Lead Engineer at Vestas
Winds and Greek Gods
My dream job was to become an astronaut until I attended a science class on sustainable energy. I was shocked when I learnt about fossil fuels and the pollution we are inflicting on our own planet. That was when I decided to contribute as much as I can to creating a clean and sustainable environment.
My job is to study the wind conditions on sites where we want to build wind turbines. This
means measuring things like wind speed and direction. Based on this information, I pick the best locations to place wind farms.
Each country makes a wind atlas. This is a series of maps showing where the winds are. Based on these maps, we place devices on the different sites to measure the wind over a full year to verify the wind potential.
These devices are set at the height of a wind turbine. They have an anemometer to measure wind speed, wind vanes to measure wind direction, a sensor to measure temperature, a barometer to measure air pressure, and a data logger to record all these measurements. Recently we started using remote sensing devices SODAR (using sound) and LIDAR (using light) to measure wind.
We use all these measurements to determine how much energy a wind turbine will produce. The faster the wind speed, the more energy produced. Temperature and air pressure help us measure air density; denser air produces more energy.
India is a very sunny country and so we can mix solar and wind energy using hybrid systems where the two technologies work together to produce a reliable supply of clean energy. There’s more wind at night and more sun during the day, and so the combination makes a steadier flow of energy.
My favourite part of the job is understanding local wind flows and working out how to position the wind turbines to get the maximum amount of power from them. I find it interesting how wind shapes landforms and has the ability to change the surface of the Earth through Aeolian processes like erosion and deposition. The term Aeolian is named after the Greek god Aeolus, the keeper of the winds.
It used to be difficult for women to become engineers in India, but the situation is improving gradually. My dad was an engineer and I grew up watching him working with great passion and enjoyment. Sometimes he used to take me to his sites and show me the water tanks and roads that were being constructed by him and his team.