Wind Turbine Electrician
Wind Energy is the fastest growing energy source and the fastest-growing job sector in the United States. Wind is produced in much of the US with the exception of the southeastern United States, but because a lot of wind farms are sited in remote locations, technicians often travel extensively regardless of where they call home. There aren’t currently many domestic offshore wind farms, but both coastlines and the great lakes have potential to produce wind energy.
How Does Wind Work?
Wind turbines certainly look futuristic, and their technology is cutting-edge, but humans’ use of wind energy harkens back to ancient times. Wind power was first used to grind grain and move water around 500 AD, and it’s been used for travel in the form of sailboats since 4000 BCE. Modern turbines use the movement of the turbine’s blades connected to a generator, which turns a rotor. Oppositely charged magnets spinning in the core of the turbine then create the electricity we use. Some have questioned the reliability of wind energy as a power source, as wind can be unpredictable, but in reality this is balanced out by the variations in electricity demand. The more wind energy that goes online, the more consistent its contribution to the power grid will be.
Anticipating high demand, there are wind tech training programs all over the country, just not in the deep south (unless you count Miami). Programs are offered at public community colleges, private tech and career schools, four-year universities and stand-alone renewable energy training schools. Some programs partner with the Department of Defense to train active-duty military personnel planning to transition to civilian life. The Department of energy has a helpful map with links to programs. Technicians will be trained in installing, maintaining, troubleshooting and replacing essential electronic and electrical components of wind turbines. They will also be trained to take care of the rest of the parts and machinery that make up a
wind turbine and will be trained in CPR and climbing.
With the outlook for the wind industry so positive, why isn’t everyone racing to become a wind turbine technician? The short answer is that in additional to some technical know-how that can be learned through training programs, wind techs need to be comfortable climbing poles hundreds of feet high. Although techs always work with a safety harness and other equipment, and are trained in safety and emergency procedures, this work is not for those who are afraid of heights. Another real challenge is that most of the equipment and machinery a wind tech will be servicing is located in the nacelle—at the top of the tower where the blades are attached. Wind techs must be comfortable squeezing into this very confined space to do most of their work. Travel is another issue—although you can be
based just about anywhere, wind farms are located in remote locations across the country. You should expect to spend a good deal of time on the road if you embark upon this career.
The Future of Wind
When it comes to wind, the sky really is the limit. The cost of wind energy is highly competitive with traditional energy sources. According to a recent report by the International Panel on Climate Change, the world has only 10 or 12 years to completely transition away from fossil fuels if we are to preserve life on earth as we know it. Well-tested, reliable sources of renewable energy such as wind will play a major role. Renewables also contribute to better air quality and reduce dependence on foreign oil imports. Farmers have found that leasing their land to utilities as a site for wind turbines can provide a lucrative side-income with no loss of agricultural productivity, so there is plenty of available space for expansion.
People can train to become a wind tech fairly quickly, and the pay is quite good—with