Alumnus leads the charge in global energy storage

Western Engineering News | May 26, 2021

goodhand-350x350.pngGlobal consultancy and engineering firm DNV helps businesses tackle sustainable transformations, from assessing a new ship design, or optimizing the performance of a wind farm, to analyzing sensor data from a gas pipeline, or certifying a food company’s supply chain.

Two years ago, Western Engineering alumnus Jason Goodhand, BESc’00, joined DNV as the company’s Global Business Leader in Energy Storage. With more than 15 years of experience in the cleantech energy sector, Goodhand and his team assist industry in leading energy storage and hydrogen energy services worldwide.

In our latest Q&A, Goodhand shares his career path within the energy sector, discusses anticipated challenges and trends for engineering in energy storage, and provides advice for those pursuing a career in energy.

Can you share your passion for and career journey in energy storage?

After leaving Western as a brand new mechanical engineer, I went to work in the automotive sector. But very quickly I became interested in alternative energy, in particular, hydrogen fuel cells. I was fascinated that there might be a broad-reaching sustainable technology that could solve the world’s climate problem. Luckily for me, there was a fuel cell technology company in nearby Mississauga, and fortunately, I got a job there. I got to see and do some amazing things, but it turns out the hydrogen energy space wasn’t quite ready back then. After trying out a couple other industries, in 2007, I landed in Wind Energy at the international energy company ENGIE. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the electricity sector.

I’m very lucky to have a career that lets me feel like I’m contributing to a social good, climate change, and not just some product. In 2014, I was selected to lead innovation into a new business for my company, and I chose battery energy storage. I’d seen the growth in wind and solar and knew this technology would follow.

What are the biggest challenges and trends you see that will impact the engineering profession in energy storage?

To a certain degree, lithium battery energy storage systems are ready to solve quite a few problems already. The Electric Vehicle sector has already pushed the pedal on scaling up this technology, making it cheaper and creating real returns for R&D improvements. Lithium batteries for EVs and the grid are now a legitimate self-sustaining industry. I think you’ll see a continued effort to refine production methods, select better materials recipes, and build better systems around these batteries. But the real challenge in the grid space is finding energy storage even cheaper than lithium that can help us get to 100% renewables, so that opens the door for new technologies like long duration flow batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

In terms of trends, we've recently seen large corporations like big box stores, data centres, and factories shift from buying renewable energy using a credit system to offset their grid use to now ensuring renewables are delivered in real time, so they aren't adding to carbon dioxide emissions.

How has your engineering education and experiences benefitted your career success?

I’ve learned that having the ability to understand the scientific and technical aspects of energy equipment like solar panels (from physics class), wind turbines (turbo-machinery), and batteries (chemistry) has been invaluable. There’s a lot of room between being a non-technical person and an expert, and you can make decisions much easier and ask the right questions if you have a broad technical background. There are also other abilities you develop in engineering that have important uses elsewhere, such as statistics — Who would have known in the 1990s how important data science and machine learning would become in so many industries? 

What advice might you have for students or young alumni interested in a similar career path?

Clean energy is one of the biggest growth industries we’ll see for the next few decades. In fact, if you start your career there today, I think it will still be a massive growth industry by the time you retire. By 2050, we’ll likely be producing twice as much electricity globally and only emitting half as much carbon dioxide as we do today. Most of that new generation will be solar and wind. There’s room to improve what industry and government can do, and there’s huge room for innovation.

Also, a successful career should have periods of opportunity seeking and of patience. It’s important to make moves and take chances because that’s when something big can happen, but it’s also important to stick somewhere for a while once you’re up the learning curve so you can get depth and insight into a particular area.

What book, resource, or podcast do you recommend for young engineers/leaders?

I’m not personally one for motivational speakers, hot podcasts, etc. I think the most important thing, career wise, is to read industry news to see what other people in your sector are doing. I think it’s also important to look for reports, whether from a consultant, the department of energy, or academia, where someone has studied and summarized some of the important information; a good graph or diagram can change the way you think about something and lead to inspiration and insight in your field.

Lastly, I think the importance of networking cannot be understated. This doesn’t mean sending out a bunch of LinkedIn connection requests blindly; I think it’s better to try to develop relationships with co-workers, customers, and classmates. There’s a lot of tacit information that isn’t written down anywhere — it’s in the heads of other people.