IECRE welcomes new Chair

In January, Alistair Mackinnon began his role as Chair of IECRE, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications.

With an illustrious career spanning over 30 years, Mackinnon has worked on a vast array of wind turbines, from small onshore, typically less than 50kW, to large multi mega-watt offshore turbines. His work has covered horizontal and vertical axis machines, as well as a few with novel architectures. He has also worked for ISO/IEC 17065 accredited Certification Bodies (CBs) and ISO/IEC 17025 accredited Testing Laboratories (TLs).

Alistair Mackinnon, Chair of IECRE
Alistair Mackinnon is the new Chair of IECRE

Mackinnon’s early career was in the defence sector, working on submarine acoustic signatures which led to involvement in the early acoustics work on wind turbines. Since then, he has worked actively in the development of standards in IEC Technical Committee 88: Wind energy generation systems, as well as a number of wind turbine research and development projects. He also helped the UK National Engineering Laboratory establish the Myres Hill Wind Turbine Test Centre in the late 1980s after which he remained in the wind sector.

e-tech caught up with Mackinnon to find out about his vision for IECRE in 2020.

Mackinnon is Head of Standards, Conformity and Compliance at the Energy Technology Centre, located on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland, which develops energy conversion devices in the renewable and low carbon sector.

What do you do at the Energy Technology Centre and what is the connection with IECRE?

In April 2016 I was appointed as Lead Assessor for the evaluation of all Test Laboratories wishing to participate in the IECRE and since then, I have undertaken over 30 Test Laboratory and three Certification Body assessments.

Prior to the establishment of IECRE in September 2014, the wind sector already had a conformity assessment committee which was chaired by our immediate past Chair - Sandy Butterfield. Although I had worked for both ISO/IEC 17065 accredited Certification Bodies and ISO/IEC 17025 accredited Testing Laboratories, Energy Technology Centre was more of an R&D centre, so we were not doing the same type of work as our colleagues in CBs and TLs. I think it was partly due to this independence and my long time in the wind sector that prepared me to take on the role of Lead Assessor. 

What does a Lead Assessor do?

I’m very grateful to IEC and our Member Bodies for placing their faith in me. As Lead Assessor I manage the assessment process prior to, during and after the onsite visits. My primary responsibility is to the System, to ensure that all applicants meet or exceed minimum criteria as defined in our rules. 

My second responsibility is to the applicants to ensure they are fairly and equitably treated and all assessments, insofar as is possible, are completed in the same way. This means to ensure the same rigour is applied to all and that all applicants are given the same opportunity to demonstrate compliance. 

My final responsibility is to the group of excellent peers that we have, in order to ensure consistency of approach and that no peer is left isolated or without support. I also like to make sure that everything we do is fun. I see the assessment process as a collaborative opportunity where applicants and peers work together, and the assessment team works to achieve a consensus view. So far, we have always been able to do this.

What are main goals for IECRE in 2020?

My main goal in 2020 will be to build on Butterfield’s excellent work and leadership, which saw the establishment of a three-sector scheme – solar PV, marine and wind – which are all at different levels of maturity. I would hope to build on that platform so that we have a financially stable base on which to develop the IECRE offering.  The wind sector is probably most mature but has new exciting opportunities particularly offshore. Marine is somewhat less mature but great work is being undertaken to achieve a customer deliverable. The economics in the PV sector mean that we will have to continue to work hard to deliver what our PV sector requires.

What would you especially like to achieve?

I’d like to see more recognition of the benefits of the IECRE System where testing and certifying once for a global marketplace becomes the norm.

What if any challenges are there?

There are many challenges ahead – our most acute is probably to achieve the financial stability required for a sustainable system that can grow. I have seen huge technical challenges addressed in my time in the industry and I have no doubt that the future will see even greater challenges addressed. I look forward to the year ahead and fulfilling my new role.

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