Michael Smailes

Project title: Hybrid HVDC transformer for multi-terminal networks

Company/Organisation: Narec (Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult)

Industrial supervisor: Dr Chong Ng

Academic supervisors: Dr Jonathan Shek (University of Edinburgh), Dr Gerasimos Theotokatos (University of Strathclyde), Dr Mohammad Abusara (University of Exeter)

Programme start: September 2012               

Industrial Project start: June 2013

Educational background

From High School I was always more technically minded which resulted in me taking Maths, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and reluctantly English at Higher. After settling on Engineering, I could not decide between Electrical and Mechanical and so decided to do both at the University of Edinburgh. This indecision continued throughout my degree and I eventually graduated with a MEng in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.

What were you doing prior to this programme?

After graduating I took a year out, travelling and working in France and Italy as a Ski Instructor.

What attracted you to studying with IDCORE?

Since school I have had a strong interest in renewables, which is one of the factors that attracted me to Edinburgh University for my Undergraduate Degree. After graduating I was keen to do a PhD but was hesitant as I did not want to sacrifice genuine industrial experience. The IDCORE program offered an ideal compromise, giving me the opportunity to do a PhD but also work in industry. This, combined with the performing industrially relevant research in an area that I had an interest in, was a great opportunity.

What attracted you to the offshore renewables industry?/ What aspects of the industry do you find most inspiring, interesting or important for the future?

I guess what attracted me was the range and depth of the technical challenges being faced at the moment. The industry is still so young, so there is a real opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact over your career. It is hard to say what aspects will be most important for the future. Everything from blade design and electrical systems through to energy policies and even ecological research will play a critical role in shaping the offshore renewables industry. I guess this is also what makes it so interesting, there are so many aspects that the industry is constantly changing.  

Main responsibilities and challenges as a Research Engineer

My research project is the design and testing of a new modularised DC-DC transformer for use in an offshore HVDC network. As I have recently started, my main responsibilities involve learning as much as possible as quickly as possible! As my project progresses though, the technical challenges will increase and my main responsibilities will revolve around finding solutions the problems that present themselves. 

What ambition would you like to fulfil as a Research Engineer?

It would be really rewarding if my project were to prove successful and the transformer I designed to eventually be used within offshore wind farms.

Experience with IDCORE so far

There have definitely been a couple of late nights and frantic scribbling to get assignments in on time and the word intense has never been used quite so well… However, the lecturers have been great at getting us through and after the first year you come out with a great breadth of knowledge about the renewables industry and a fair sense of accomplishment.

It is fair to say that I have really enjoyed the course so far and I am looking forward to the next year. 

Michael Smailes, IDCORE Research Engineer
Michael Smailes, IDCORE Research Engineer

Programme start date: 

September, 2012

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