Rising Talent in Renewable Energy – Meet Ciaran Cotter Solar PV Designer

Ciaran Cotter is our newest Solar PV Design Specialist working out of our Calgary office. He is no stranger to the renewable energy industry and SkyFire is so happy to have him on board.

Ciaran holds a Master of Engineering degree in Renewable Energy from a top university in the UK and four years of professional experience in the renewable energy sector including electrical system design and technical asset management. He is also a member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology and currently applying for a Member-In-Training license with APEGA.

Ciaran is a newcomer to Canada and as you will see there are several things he finds remarkable about living here. We sat down and picked his brain about the renewable energy industry and why he decided to sport a delightful mustache for Movember.

What excites you about the renewable energy industry?
The big picture stuff, knowing that what we do every day has a positive effect on fighting climate change and helping to safeguard the future for the next generations.
In relation to Alberta, the exciting thing is the untapped potential, Alberta has the best solar resources in Canada. I know Alberta is deeply proud of its oil & gas industry and I think now is the time to embrace a cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy and extend that pride to renewables. They are a lot more similar than people realize, simply extracting energy from the abundant natural resource here in Alberta. There is so much potential for solar and wind here and I can’t wait to see how that industry will flourish in the future and how Albertans will embrace it.

What challenges you most about the renewable energy industry?
The biggest challenge for me is probably the misinformation and misunderstanding that exists around renewable energy, which is due partly to the rapid technological advancements (in solar, wind and energy storage. Solar and wind energy has grown to be much more economically viable, efficient and productive in the past 10years. An example I have seen a lot is the confusion between variability and intermittency in power generation. People describe solar and wind as intermittent however it’s actually conventional power stations that suffer most from intermittency as they can turn off suddenly due to a fault and be offline for long periods of time representing a large proportion of generation. Renewables, on the other hand, are variable, not intermittent, in that they may not always produce full power, but they almost always produce some power. This coupled with how forecastable their variability makes renewables highly reliable and low risk. They also individually don’t represent as much of a network power generation when they do go offline, this greater aggregation of energy generation also increases energy security for everyone.

What does your ideal workday look like?
My ideal workday would consist of designing a large, challenging project which incorporates solar, energy storage and electric vehicles. This would require lots of research, determination of solar generation and electric vehicle demand profiles followed by putting it all together in the most optimal way. Basically, a day of exciting design work to sink my teeth into and all the fun stuff that goes with it.

What makes work meaningful for you?
Personally, I believe the most important factor for work is that you do something that you love. Something that excites you and makes you proud to be doing it. That’s what solar and renewable energy engineering are for me. Contributing to an industry that leads to positive change, empowers communities and helps protect the future, what could be more meaningful!

From your perspective what does the future of solar look like?
I think the future is bright! (sorry). Seriously though I think the future will be in building solar at all scales and with the uptake of energy storage/electric vehicles there will be a decentralizing effect on the grid leading to more breakaway networks and microgrid systems. I also think the next generation of PV technology will start to commercialize and higher efficiency modules will be much more affordable. Perovskite, organics and dye-sensitized solar cells have made great progress in efficiency in the last few years and look likely to be very cheap to mass manufacture. This should lead to more building-integrated PV and repowering of older sites with new, more efficient modules.

What is one of your favorite pastimes?
Hiking in the Rockies! It is a big reason we decided to move here to Canada and why we wanted to move to Calgary specifically. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth and the hikes are brutal but extremely rewarding.

Do you have a dog or other pet?
I have a cat called Failán but we had to leave her with my Mum back in the UK. She is a small, grumpy black and white cat with a saggy belly, she is the best and I miss her.

Being new to Canada what are the things that you find remarkable so far?
Well, the obvious answer is the weather however I have grown to love the cold dry air on those -15 mornings and the novelty of snow has not worn off yet. Here are a few other things I find remarkable.
• People still use cheques here, I had to google how to write one.
• I can drive from Calgary to Edmonton and only turn twice in three hours.
• A cabbage can cost as much as $11. The food here is expensive.
• The root beer is delicious. Where has it been all my life?
• The vehicles here are huge! Even the same make and model is bigger here compared to the UK. They must adapt cars to the Canadian market.
• It’s quicker to get to Mexico than the east coast!

What motivated you to sign up for Movember and the SkyFire #solarmobros?
My father died of cancer when I was 10 years old and I have had friends suffer from mental health issues, so I want to help prevent others from suffering in the future. Moreover, it’s a fun way to raise awareness/donations and I was encouraged by my mobro Scott Hamilton. Thanks, Scott.