AT THE OFFICE: Steve Smith, Senior Biomass Engineer, Natural Power

Natural Power Steve Smith

What does your day typically consist of:

A crazy dash to get the kids into school and nursery usually kicks off the day and makes the office seems like an oasis of calm, however much is going on! After catching up with anything that has developed out of hours, over a good, strong coffee, it can be on to a variety of things – writing due diligence reports on renewable heat plants, advising clients on technical or funding matters, checking contractor designs, or writing feasibility studies. When I am not in the office I’m typically found crawling over plant rooms trying to decipher a spaghetti of pipework, checking plants have been installed properly, or poking them to see why they don’t work as promised.

What do you enjoy most about your role:

I really enjoy the diversity of the role, especially as we are now encompassing other renewable heat technologies. Not knowing what the next project will bring is exciting. It’s also great to be working in renewable heat at a time when heat is beginning to be recognised as the next big thing we need to decarbonise. I also enjoy working with all the Natural Power people – it’s a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere where you can really excel in what you do.

How did you get into the role in the first place:

I originally studied civil engineering in Plymouth, but industry contraction at the time stopped me getting further with it as a career. After stints in plant hire and promotions I decided I wanted to work in renewables so moved to Edinburgh to study Energy and Environmental Engineering at Napier University. This has lead me to work in building services, combined heat and power, district heating, solar thermal, solar PV and biomass, mostly based in either Scotland or Wales, but working on projects worldwide.

The move to the Biomass team at Natural Power was a natural progression of my renewables career, and it has been great to see we are becoming a ‘renewable heat’ team, which means I get to use other facets of my renewables experience.

What is your degree and /or professional qualification:

I have an HND in Civil Engineering, a BEng(hons) in Energy and Environmental Engineering, I am an affiliate member of the Energy Institute and CIBSE, a PRINCE 2 practitioner and recently became a CIBSE accredited Heat Networks Consultant.

What is the most interesting type of work you have done and why:

I love the complexity and scale of large projects. Since being at Natural Power I have been involved in the Rhode biomass CHP plant, which is on a utility scale, so the size and complexity of the project has been quite a thrill to be involved in – a complex interaction between engineering, emissions, fuel supply and heat use.

The district heating projects I have done in the past have been great – lots of big pipes and big boilers, and a lot of careful planning to get it all in the ground/plant rooms, and up and running while keeping all the buildings ‘live’. Oh, and I’m always a sucker for a big spreadsheet.

What is your biggest achievement at work:

No one big item; but I get a great sense of achievement seeing the projects I’ve worked on at feasibility or design actually getting built, or getting that e-mail or phone call from a client letting you know they are really pleased with the work you’ve done for them.

Any hidden talents:

I can drive a variety of heavy plant from my days in plant hire.

What is your favourite hobby:

I used to be really into walking and climbing, but recent problems with my knees have shelved that for the time being, although I still try to get out for some ‘remote as I can get’ camping. Mainly now concentrate on my interest in cooking and DIY; and of course planning my all singing, all dancing new heating system.

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