The Renewable Energy sector is one which is highly popular for jobseekers. It’s rapidly growing, with vacancies increasing from 7.3 million in 2012, to 12 million in 2020.
One of the key drivers for this has been the increase in discussions and policies around the environment. This has led to a huge demand for clean energy – both the volume and scale of renewable energy projects has gone up. Naturally, this has had a positive knock-on effect in terms of jobs.
In this article, we’ll look at one of the most popular roles within Renewables – a Site Engineer. We’ll break down what it entails, what you need to succeed and where it could lead.
What does a Site Engineer in Renewables do?
A Site Engineer role can cover a combination of Civil, Electrical and Mechanical engineering, often for projects that involve Solar Energy or Battery Storage. Your role will be to manage the on-site operations for the duration of a particular Renewable Energy project. These projects are generally based around the production of energy from renewable sources, for example wind or solar power.
The scope of the role can be quite wide – your input will be technical, organisational and supervisory.
In terms of where you work, most jobs will require a mix of office and on-site working. It’s also not going to be an isolated job – there is lots of interaction with others. You’ll work alongside other engineers to provide support, guidance and strategic advice, while there’s also plenty of liaising with clients and operational departments.
Some of your daily duties can involve
- Surveying and inspecting sites
- Setting up sites for projects
- Combining renewable energy production with existing power systems
- Supervising subcontractors, ensuring the civil, electrical and mechanical construction drawings are being properly implemented
- Providing technical support and guidance to solve on-site problems
- Managing welfare and waste facilities (normally in conjunction with Site Managers)
- Feasibility studies and cost estimates
- Preparing daily, weekly and monthly progress reports
Finally, the starting salary for a Site Engineer within Renewables is generally around £25,000, but those with experience can earn between £30,000 - £40,000. Once you get to a senior level (which we’ll touch on below), you could earn closer to £65,000. Many businesses also offer extras such as private healthcare, bonus schemes and relocation packages
What do I need to become a Site Engineer in Renewables?
We’ll split this into a few sections.
In terms of qualifications, a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering or Civil Engineering is a requirement for most jobs. Typically, any of these will be accepted, but be sure to check each job description as some require specific ones.
There are some soft skills which will stand you in good stead. We mentioned earlier that you’ll be required to interact with many different people, so strong communication skills (written and verbal), along with the ability to negotiate and influence stakeholders are important. You also need to be detail oriented – the projects you’ll be working on will be highly complex, where the smallest of things can have a big impact. Other important soft skills include:
- Problem solving
- An analytical mindset
- The ability to absorb complex information and simplify if needed
In terms of technical skills, science and maths are obvious ones, but it’s essential to be good with computer-aided design software. AUTOCAD is one where experience can be a real advantage. You should also have the ability to interpret electrical, mechanical and civil drawings to a high standard.
It’s important to have knowledge of key environmental legislation, as well as those specifically within Renewables, especially when it comes to battery storage and solar parks. It’s a fast-moving industry, so you need to constantly read and keep up to date with new developments.
A driving licence is also quite useful, due to the amount of travel involved – particularly as the sites can be in remote areas, away from good public transport links.
Finally, you should keep in mind that a decent level of physical fitness will be required. When you’re on site, you’ll be expected to do a fair amount of walking, as well as things like climb ladders. To this end, make sure you also keep on top of Health & Safety regulations.
What progression opportunities are there for me?
Once you're in your first role, you should aim to work towards a professional qualification. With some good practical experience, you can then register with the Engineering Council. This adds a bit of extra weight to your CV and helps you when looking to move upwards.
The next step up is jobs such as Lead Site Engineer and Senior Site Engineer. In these roles, you’ll often find yourself as the main technical authority on projects from initial concept all the way through to completion. You will also have the responsibility of managing one or more Site Engineers. Many projects may be starting from scratch, so part of your role will include developing a larger team of Site Engineers.
If you’ve shown flexibility, then your chances of a promotion will be quite good, including work abroad. In fact, even if you choose to stay in the UK, there are many roles which require the Lead or Senior Engineers to travel to overseas sites on an occasional basis.
Another option is to become a self-employed consultant, where you would provide specialist advice to organisations.
What more can you tell me about Renewables?
There’s a couple of exciting things about working in Renewables.
One is the variety of technologies. As mentioned earlier, it’s a growing industry, so you could be working with technology that is well established or new and cutting edge.
Secondly, you will be helping to build the future energy system, powered by clean energy. Over the coming decades, coal and gas power generation will continue to be weaned off and renewable energy sources will need to step up to the plate. With the UK having set a Net Zero carbon emissions target by 2050, the work you’ll do within Renewables will be critical to achieving this.