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In conversation with Women in Renewables Scholarship winner Nicola Wilkins

As the Women in Renewables initiative continues to grow strongly, the demand for scholarship opportunities grows with it. In 2018, the number of inspiring and intelligent women that applied for the Australian Institute of Company Directors: Foundations of Directorship (AICD) scholarship and the inaugural Monash Business School, Your Leadership Voice: Women in Focus scholarship hit record numbers.

Nicola 003

Nicola is a Principal Engineer with Horizon Power. She has over 15 years’ experience in the renewable energy industry encompassing feasibility, electrical design, project management and consulting both in Australia and abroad, including five years in Germany.

Nicola is currently leading an engineering team to support the design, deployment and integration of stand-alone power systems into Horizon Power’s business as a utility-grade asset. Nicola is a Chartered Engineer and holds a Master of Science in Renewable Energy from Loughborough University and a Bachelor of Engineering from Monash University. She was the recipient of the 2017 Clean Energy Council Women in Renewables Scholarship.

Tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally

In my current role as a Principal Engineer, I am working on an innovative project which will use stand-alone solar and battery systems to replace parts of Horizon Power’s network. I enjoy the challenges of solving engineering problems with my team and working with our stakeholders. I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing my designs being constructed and providing power for customers. I’m also a member of CEC directorates and enjoy participating in industry events.

Personally, I like living at the beach and volunteering as a surf lifesaver. I also play saxophone in several bands. I enjoy travelling and my career has taken me to Fiji, Germany, Mongolia and Pakistan as well as regional and remote parts of Australia.

What attracted you to the renewable energy industry and what motivated you to apply for the WiR scholarship?

Back in school, I thought it was magical for a solar panel to generate electricity from sunlight. From then on, I knew I wanted to work in the renewable energy industry. After completing a Master of Science in Renewable Energy at Loughborough University in the UK, I have been working in the industry ever since.

I want to make a contribution to addressing climate change and my role helps to reduce the carbon intensity of our power supply.

When I decided to apply for the scholarship in 2016, I had a strong interest in pursuing a board career and I knew this opportunity would enable me to do that. I had become aware of the Women in Renewables initiative through the various working groups and directorates I have been involved in at the Clean Energy Council, so applying for the scholarship was naturally the next step.

How has the WiR scholarship influenced your career?

Through the WiR scholarship and undertaking the Australian Institute of Company Directors Foundations of Directorship course, I have gained a thorough understanding of the role and responsibilities of directors, finance and strategy and risk related to directorship. The scholarship also afforded me some speaking opportunities and exposure which has elevated my profile in the renewable energy industry and expanded my network.

Since being awarded the scholarship, I decided to take up a new role as Principal Engineer and am now managing a small team of engineers. I have been a board member of Engineers Australia’s Electrical College since 2018 and was invited to extend my appointment for another two years. I am keen to contribute as a non-executive director in the clean energy sector in the future.

What do you think would encourage more women to enter the clean energy sector?

The clean energy sector is exciting and will expand considerably and provide many more jobs in the future. Our industry is forward-looking and thinking and is perhaps more willing to embrace diversity than other industries. That’s why I would encourage more women to enter the clean energy sector.