I’ve lived in Malahide my whole life – a lovely place to grow up, like a bubble. I loved school and at UCD chose an arts degree with geography as I always liked this subject but quickly switched to geography, planning and environmental policy as I’m definitely a facts head.
When I graduated in 2008 the recession meant a town planner job wasn’t happening so I joined Airtricity and was billing customers, thinking this could be a way to get into renewables. This happened 18 months later when I got an entry level project support officer role.
In 2014 I started working as a Geographic Information Systems analyst, providing mapping requirements to the onshore wind development team and then as a development project manager within onshore wind and solar at SSE Airtricity which gave me the experience to join ESB.
My dad had a semi-state job, and this appealed to me also, it was the perfect move for me. I started in development onshore at the concept level and in 2019 was promoted to offshore project director. In Ireland the offshore wind industry was really in its infancy so moving to be part of this was very exciting.
I don’t like sitting on my hands, this is what happened when I came out of UCD. I needed to look at something else and renewable energy was where I wanted to go.
It was stressful coming out of college and thinking what will I do with my lovely degree? I was keen to stay in Ireland, my father had early set Alzheimer’s at 49 and I wanted to stay put as I had responsibilities here, this was important to me.
It’s a big coincidence as our Dublin office is located in a revamped shared office space where myself and my mum held a big fundraiser nine years ago in aid of the Alzheimer Society. When I sit at my desk I often think of that. It’s poignant and special too.
The office is in the Marina in Malahide, I’m literally looking out at the boats. It’s a lovely environment.
I am a steady person, maybe even a control freak at times. Stuff that is out of my control I find difficult to manage but during my professional career I learned how to manage this too as it is all part of a project.
Winds of change
After five years at ESB I was contacted about the senior project manager job at Inis Offshore Wind. I was in a security blanket of the semi-state. This would mean moving to a smaller entity. I felt it was a risk but I’m sitting here today knowing that risk paid off and I’m so happy I took it.
The company was set up in 2020 backed by the renewable energy-focused Temporis Aurora fund and institutional investors along with the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund – I think the State backing encouraged me.
There is a feeling the Irish State has a direct stake in this, I liked this and the fact it is smaller means more autonomy as I am doing many jobs within it.
I moved in June 2021, nearly the same time as Vanessa O’Connell who returned to Ireland to head up Inis Offshore Wind after 10 years working for Danish group Orsted. I keep in touch with my colleagues in ESB, I’m still very close to them but it’s really great to work with Vanessa.
She has a wealth of offshore experience and I have the early development knowledge. The wider Temporis team helps out and we work with a strategic advisor Warwick Energy and are in the middle of a recruitment drive. We will be a team of eight soon.
The alarm goes off at 6.30, I often go to the gym before work, especially on the two days I work from home. Sometimes I go to Portmarnock beach to watch the sunrise with my husband.
I’m in the office at 8am and usually leave at 6pm. The day flies by, I am so busy and I love this.
In the morning it’s straight into meetings, with space in the afternoon for myself and Vanessa to go through the stuff. We head off for lunch together and I tend to get the same salad in Donnybrook Fair. I don’t have breakfast when I’m in the office but when I’m at home I will religiously have scrambled eggs and spinach. In ESB, everyone was used to me each morning beating eggs in the kitchen.
There are a number of consultants working for us and if someone has done a report they often come into the office and we workshop it out – though we also work a lot on Zoom.
Conferences are coming back, which I welcome. I was at an offshore conference recently in Scotland. I’ve always preferred in-person events, it’s great to be back speaking to people.
Locating prospective sites
What I’m doing all day is looking at the options of where to build. I’ll be studying desktop surveys. We have a number of consultants in areas such as landscape and visual effects. I’m managing the budget and I’m always meeting with stakeholders. This is something we really want to do well. We are an Irish company and we want to build the same trust well-known utilities have.
At this stage we are managing early stage optionality: we look at the options, narrow them down, do more detailed work on the grid route – there are many experts providing us with information.
We are approaching the first stage in the process which is the Maritime Area Consent – this is the new licence for offshore winds. Once we have that done then specific work can begin.
There is now a clear realisation for Europe and Ireland of the importance in lessening our reliance on fossil fuels, increasing our energy security and transitioning to clean, indigenous sources of energy, as evidenced by the Irish Government launching the National Energy Security Framework last week.
I make dinner because I like cooking and it tastes nicer. Keith does the shopping, that’s our deal. There are good walks in our area so we often head out for a stroll in the evenings, especially in summer. On a Friday, I like to switch off with a glass of wine and some trash TV.
Things are happening quickly in my work, it’s fast paced and I try to unwind in the evening as otherwise the thought juices don’t flow so well, but if I hear a ping from my laptop sometimes I do get back to it.
Vanessa is so passionate about the industry and good at getting people on board. The level of understanding around the country, and around the world, that our reliance on fossil fuels can’t go on has really taken off. We have the natural resources to make this possible and for me it’s so exciting and fun to be involved.