Lancaster Environment Centre’s top graduate


12 December 2018 01:00
Damon Waterworth

Our best performing graduate is now working as a sustainability consultant in the company where he interned during his degree.

Damon Waterworth held down two jobs while studying part time for his masters in Energy & the Environment at Lancaster University, as well as volunteering at the Hazelrigg Met Office weather station before completing a three-month internship with the Yordas Group.

Despite all these demands on his time, Damon achieved an MSc with distinction and won the prize for the year’s best overall postgraduate performance at the Lancaster Environment Centre.

Damon is used to multi-tasking. He was the first person in his family to go to University and, after gaining an undergraduate degree in geography at the University of Chester, decided to do a masters. He took a year out to choose which masters he wanted to do, while learning to drive, volunteering in his local council’s planning department and working part-time at Tesco.

Lancaster won out on reputation, proximity to home and because of the “breadth of different modules on offer”. He chose the Energy & the Environment combination because “I felt energy was a pressing problem for the future and has multiple implications for the natural environment.”

He took full advantage of the broad range of modules. “I looked for skills-based modules like GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and Environmental Auditing. On the science side I went for modules like Global Change and the Earth System. I also wanted to policy, choosing modules such as climate and society, the environmental impacts of renewable energy, and environmental governance.”

Damon became curious about what would happen if the people did adopt en masse the low carbon lifestyle choices that policy makers support.

“What would be the impact of fundamental dietary change, or if we powered our transport system using batteries and hydrogen fuel-cell technologies?”

For one project Damon focussed on the issue of sustainable transport to meet the UK’s legal commitments outlined in the Climate Change Act. For another project he used multiple data sets and satellite imagery to map the best locations for onshore wind development.

When it came to his dissertation project, he knew he wanted to focus on low-carbon energy systems. He went to talk to Dr Alona Armstrong, a fellow of Energy Lancaster. They decided to look at natural ways to improve solar panel efficiency by tackling the panels tendency to overheat.

“The more sun there is the more potential a panel has to generate electricity. However, the sun and energy conversion process cause the panels to heat up and this makes them less efficient at harnessing that energy. I wanted to see how wind direction might affect the solar power output given that differences in exposed surface area may result in differences in the cooling effect and efficiency under northerly and southerly airstreams.”

Using one year’s data from multiple logging stations set up at a solar park in Oxfordshire by Alona Armstrong, Damon showed that southerly winds increased the efficiency of a panel by between 20% and 43% compared to northerly winds.

“It would now be really interesting to do the same experiment in the sunbelt, where heat accumulation for solar panels is a more significant problem than the UK. Changes in solar park design could offer a natural, cost effective solution to otherwise expensive and potentially resource-demanding alternatives such as water cooling technology.”

While completing his dissertation, Damon was working three days a week as an intern for the Yordas Group, one of the environmental companies based at the Lancaster Environment Centre. He used the skills he gained on his environmental auditing module to develop the company’s ISO Environmental Management System. This enables the company to assess, mitigate and improve the environmental impact of its activities, and ultimately achieve ISO certification.

In October, Damon’s hard work paid off when Yordas offered him a full-time position as an Associate Sustainability Consultant. He’s now working in a multi-disciplinary team to develop the company’s sustainability services portfolio, developing relationships with prospective clients, as well as continuing with the ISO project.

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