StratisDr Stratis Batzelis is a Research Fellow sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering. He is aiming to make a difference by solving the challenges of using solar-generated electricity in developing countries.

Stratis was switched on to renewables at an early age: “I always had a passion for electronics — you would often catch me as a child disassembling electric toys or broken electric appliances just to see what’s inside.”

What was decisive in driving him to become an electrical engineer was a solar-powered toy car that could drive on its own with no batteries. “It was just a matter of time until he repurposed my mother’s fan into a basic wind generator that would light up the outdoor stairs when it was windy. “The idea that we can have free electricity from the environment around us without an impact stuck in my head: I wanted to be a renewable energy engineer!”

Connecting the world

He works closely with universities and companies in India on making solar-powered systems more accessible. “Developing advanced systems and control methods, my target is to make solar generation more “friendly” to the electrical network so that we can deploy more of it, and to assist rural villages with no grid connection to have reliable solar-powered electricity. Achieving these targets would help developing countries in the race against climate change, and contribute to economic development and improved wellbeing for their citizens.”

Outside of research Stratis is keen on running, hiking and traditional Cretan / Greek dancing and singing.

Stratis was able to follow his passion for engineering but it was not always straightforward. “Coming from Greece, which suffered a financial crisis in the last decade, it was not the easiest thing to become an engineering researcher. Funding was scarce and I had to do other jobs to make a living if I didn’t want to forgo my dream.” He was able to come to the UK and help make a difference through the EU Marie-Curie Research Fellowship Programme.

His ultimate dream is for a “100% renewables-based energy sector, with sun- and wind-powered electricity, electric cars in our roads, electric heating in our homes and a neutral environmental footprint for our society. My research will keep exploring and tackling the relevant challenges so that one day that will be a reality – not a dream.”