When it comes to beating the average ideal of what employment looks like in 2023 and beyond; Wind Turbine Technicians are a solid opening to explore.
The wind turbine industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past few decades, with wind power becoming one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy in the world. In this blog, we will explore the history, technology, and future of the wind turbine industry.
Wind technicians typically attend technical schools such as Pinnacle Career Institute where they may complete a postsecondary certificate in wind energy technology or even choose to earn an associate’s degree. The majority of technical schools have onsite wind turbines that students service as part of their studies. In addition to hands-on learning, Pinnacle offers wind coursework which is instructed via online classwork.
The projected growth of this occupation is expected to far surpass almost all other occupations in regard to the number of workers needed and job openings generated. The education piece of the Wind Turbine Technician also follows the unique occupational path of not requiring a 4-year degree to enter the workforce. Technical schools such as Pinnacle Career Institute offer hands-on learning with coursework including:
Below are a few important qualities that are needed to be successful in the industry. Below are a few of the most important skills.
The fear of heights is not something you can typically learn how to conquer while training. The comfort of working at heights is a necessity due to the obvious of working in such an environment each day but also the ability to think critically in order to maintain or repair wind turbines.
To exchange information effectively and safely is another quality that must be obtained to be a quality technician.
There are a number of safety procedures, operations and measurements required to maintain records of the services they perform.
There are various technical systems required by Wind Technicians to be able to maintain and repair these systems at the highest level of understanding.
The tools and equipment needed to work so high in the air require a Wind Technician to be able to not only climb these towers but also bring along these necessities without hesitation.
The lifting of heavy equipment and tools can weigh up to 50 pounds or more which must be obtainable in daily work environments.
The height of the tower can’t be a cause for dismay. The ability to consistently diagnose and repair turbine problems is a must in the daily execution of the job requirements. When a malfunction arises, the technician must determine the cause of such an issue and make whatever necessary repairs.
The use of wind energy dates back thousands of years, with the first windmills appearing in Persia (modern-day Iran) in the 7th century. These early windmills were used to grind grains and pump water. Windmills later spread to Europe, where they were used for similar purposes.
The first wind turbine to generate electricity was built in Scotland in 1887 by Professor James Blyth. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that wind power began to be seriously considered a viable source of electricity.
Wind turbines work by converting the kinetic energy of wind into electrical energy. A typical wind turbine consists of a tower, blades, a rotor, and a generator. The blades are designed to capture the wind's energy and spin the rotor, which is connected to a generator that produces electricity. There are two main types of wind turbines: horizontal-axis turbines and vertical-axis turbines. Horizontal-axis turbines are the most common type and are typically used in large-scale wind farms. They have a horizontal rotor shaft and three blades that face into the wind. Vertical-axis turbines have a vertical rotor shaft and blades that rotate around it. They are often used in smaller-scale applications such as residential or commercial buildings. The size of wind turbines has increased dramatically over the years. The largest wind turbines currently in operation have rotor diameters of over 200 meters and can generate up to 14 megawatts of electricity.
Generally, wind turbine service technicians work outdoors in occasional extreme temperatures on rural or offshore wind farms. The work is mainly done at great heights which requires a physical make up that is normally covered during training. This means workers must climb ladders to reach the nacelle that is mounted on towers that are more than 200 feet tall while wearing a fall-protection harness and carrying tools. Throughout the repair of the blades, wind technicians descend by sliding down a rope from the nacelle to the section of the blade that needs repair. The mechanical systems are maintained in confined spaces which are inside the nacelle. Occasionally, wind technicians work with another wind technician or another specialist such as an electrician while conducting major service or repairs. To guard against injury, it is imperative that wind turbine service technicians follow safety protocols correctly such as using a harness and other safety equipment during climbs. The use of hard hats, gloves, and other protective gear aids in lowering the rate of injury.
There are some aspects of the job profile which involve building new wind turbines, however, most of their work is in the areas of maintaining, troubleshooting, and repairing the wind turbines; specifically, the nacelles which contains the equipment that generates the electricity. As mentioned previously, the typical job varies greatly in terms of “office hours” as well. The turbines, which operate year-round, if a problem is detected wind technicians must travel to the site and perform repair services as needed.
The average day of work for a wind technician is spent climbing and inspecting numerous wind turbines. Computers are essential for diagnosing electrical malfunctions and to report any problems they notice during the scheduled repair.
Typical service to the turbine conducted by the technicians include
This is where the majority of the wind technicians complete their work. The nacelles are built compactly and therefore another aspect of the job profile is the ability to work in confined spaces. Turbine technicians do regular cleaning and lubrication of shafts, bearings, gears, and other machinery. Turbine technicians also must use handheld power tools and electrical instruments as they troubleshoot any electrical faults in the control cabinets, generators, and other onboard electrical or electronic systems.
Wind turbine technicians also must work outside, on the very top of the nacelle. For example, they might have to replace the instruments which measure wind speed and direction. Another example may be to work with large cranes for component repair or replacement. While outside the nacelle, wind turbine technicians can be hundreds of feet in the air and require a heightened sense of safety. This includes the wear of fall protection full body harnesses which are attached to appropriately rated tie-off points on the nacelle and require cautiously moving while working.
The future of the wind turbine industry looks bright. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), wind power is expected to become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050, overtaking coal and natural gas. The IEA also predicts that wind power capacity could reach 1,123 gigawatts by 2025, up from 564 gigawatts in 2018.
One of the challenges facing the wind turbine industry is the intermittency of wind power. Wind power generation depends on the availability of wind, which can be unpredictable. However, advances in energy storage technology, such as batteries and pumped hydro storage, are helping to address this challenge by allowing excess wind power to be stored and used when wind speeds are low. Another area of growth for the wind turbine industry is offshore wind power. Offshore wind turbines can take advantage of stronger and more consistent wind speeds, which can result in higher electricity generation. The IEA predicts that offshore wind power capacity could reach 240 gigawatts by 2040, up from just 29 gigawatts in 2019.
The wind turbine industry has come a long way since the first windmills were built thousands of years ago. Today, wind power is a major source of renewable energy and is poised to become the world’s largest source of electricity in the coming decades. As technology continues to improve and the demand for clean energy grows, the future of the wind turbine industry looks brighter than ever.
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