Skip to main content


Photo of Prof Richard Cochrane

Prof Richard Cochrane

Associate Professor for Renewable Energy


We are deeply saddened to share the news of the death of Professor Richard Cochrane.  Richard was well loved by colleagues and students right across the University, particularly in our Department of Engineering (Renewable Energy), where he was for a time Director of Education. His vibrant intelligence, kindness and gracious manner were noted by all.

Richard studied Engineering at Cambridge and went on to found his own company, the Quiet Revolution, developing the helical vertical axis wind turbine he had invented, the first vertical axis design to successfully achieve certification under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. Seven of these vertical axis wind turbines could be seen during the London 2012 Olympics. He successfully led a module in Renewable Energy at Bath University, and, following this, was delighted to join the University of Exeter in 2013, fulfilling his vocation to teach. His commitment to excellence in education has been demonstrated through his approach focused not only on theory but equally on hands-on experience and real-life projects as demanded by the industry.

Richard’s passion for renewable energy and for protecting the environment was evident in everything he did. He made great contributions to knowledge exchange in the areas of wind, solar, heat pumps and hydro power. He was an inspirational figure and leaves an enduring environmental legacy.

Richard’s voice went far beyond the University. He was often to be heard speaking on the radio, television and was quoted in numerous publications. Richard was generous with his skills and knowledge, supporting his local parish council, helping to establish the Roseland Environment Action Community Team (REACT) and overseeing the planting of 800 trees at his home in Cornwall.

Despite determinedly battling motor neurone disease since 2019, and despite emerging prospects of new treatments arising from research in this area, Richard Cochrane passed away on Thursday 25 May 2023. He is survived by his three beloved children.

If you would like to share your condolences, please see Professor Richard Cochrane and tributes and messages can be left here.



Academic Profile:

A Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Energy Institute with a passion for Renewable Energy and Engineering Design. A background in product development and energy in the built environment.

Wind Energy

Vertical Axis Turbines

Vertical Axis Wind Turbines: Designed and developed the Quiet Revolution QR5 helical vertical axis wind turbine. A fascinating project to have led, integrating class leading aerodynamics, composites, mechanical and structural engineering along with innovative control and performance monitoring systems. 

The machine was the first and to date only Vertical Axis design to successfully achieve certification under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme in the UK. 

Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines

I have assisted horizontal axis turbine manufacturers achieve certification for their turbines and worked on the design and optimisation of a number of different small wind turbines.

Hydro Power

I oversaw the development and first installations of a high efficiency double regulated Kaplan turbine which included novel bearing designs, integration of PLC and conventional control systems and CFD optimsation. I have designed run of river and high head hydro systems and am currently PI on a pumped hydro energy storage project exploring innovations in this area.

Solar Energy and District Heating

I have supported Eon and the University of Exeter's Centre for Energy and the Environment with energy modelling and life cycle analysis of an innovative district heating network supplied by the UK's largest solar thermal array and a heat pump.


Teaching Developments

As Director for Education for the Renewable Energy Group I updated our Renewable Energy BSc and launched the Renewable Energy Engineering BEng, MEng and MSc programmes. In a drive to include more innovative design related and practical work I secured funding and oversaw the development of the REEF building on the Penryn Campus.

Research activities

The primary drive for current research activities is on the simulation of Floating Offshore Wind Turbines combing past experience of aeroelastic modelling with the group's expertise in hydrodynamics and mooring analysis. Work involves simulation using NREL's FAST code, Orcaflex, Nemoh and Wamit for the mooring and wave loading and OpenFoam for CFD. As well as the development and validation of improved simulation tools, work includes evaluation of design opportunities to reduce the cost of FOWT's. 

I am also principal investigator for an InnovateUK funded project investigating novel opportunities for cost reductions in pumped hydro storage systems.

Energy in buildings and low carbon heating are another area of focus with current work on innovations in ground source heat pump systems and their control. This work includes supporting geothermal energy analysis with studies of options for heat and power utilisation and heat distribution. Work also involves innovations in the heat sources for heat pumps including sea water and disused mines.

Engineering and Teaching Consultancy

I have provided formal and informal input to energy technology developers in various sectors as well as broader energy generation, energy efficiency feasibility studies and regional energy strategy development. 

Acting as the external reviewer I have provided guidance for other engineering programmes. I am currently appointed as external examiner for an MSc programme.