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A wind turbine is a machine that can produce renewable energy from the wind by rotation.
Thanks to this technology, people can convert wind into electricity.
Wind turbines look like tall towers with the windmills installed on the top.
They can be several hundred feet tall because on that height the wind is stronger and more turbulent.
The windmill consists of three blades installed towards the wind in which they spin.
The speed of the blade spinning can reach 200 mph.
The wind turbines also incorporate hubs and nacelles.
The nacelles contain the parts that convert the wind into electricity (generator).
There can be as many as 8,000 operational components in the turbine to provide thousands of watts of electrical power.
Wind turbines are constructed on the ground and on the platforms on the water.
They are usually combined in a group, a wind farm.
They can generate as much power as a nuclear power plant.
Wind turbine technicians are responsible for the installation of all components and maintenance of the turbines to ensure smooth operation.
The consistent power flow is one of the most essential things for the operation of the power companies.
The wind turbine technicians work to minimize the downtime.
Upon completion of the installation, technicians should clean, maintain, and inspect the system.
The work is usually full time.
Besides, technicians can be on call for emergencies.
Most of the work is done outside in remote areas.
Wind turbine technicians can work individually or as a part of a team.
The workers must maintain safety.
They work at great heights in high winds, so the technicians must use safety equipment.
Technicians should have a solid understanding of electrical systems.
They work with toxic substances, so no mistakes can be made.
The training of the wind techs is highly extensive.
Wind Turbine Technician Requirements
Wind turbine technicians should be well-versed in the technology used in the turbines.
They should know how to install, repair, and maintain them.
Together with the training they acquire, technicians have to complete an apprenticeship program or relevant coursework.
The safety training is also mandatory.
Since the work is mostly performed several hundred feet in the air, all wind turbine technicians should be comfortable working at heights.
Technicians must be physically fit and strong and be able to easily operate the ladders.
Communication skills are the essence of safe work with other workers.
The expert technicians should have close attention to detail and keep accurate records of their work.
Efficient problem-solving is also an essential skill.
Wind turbine technicians should be mechanically apt.
Even though the skills can be obtained, more experienced technicians can understand the turbine technology faster and better.
Technicians are expected to be skilled in electronic troubleshooting and industrial hydraulic systems.
How to Become a Wind Turbine Technician
New wind turbine technicians can enter the field without previous education, but those are rare cases.
The advanced technology and safety procedures often require an apprenticeship program or specialized training.
Below, there are four general steps students commonly take to become a wind turbine technician:
- A high school diploma or equivalent – 4 years.
Students need at least one year of algebra with a C average to enroll in the wind turbine tech programs.
They need to take the maximum of the math classes that they can.
Other disciplines required include computer technology, science, and electronics.
Shop classes where students learn and develop manual skills fixing mechanics are a huge advantage.
Sports and physical education can help the aspiring technicians to keep fitness and strength necessary for a wind tech job.
Volunteer or part-time work with electricians can be a big plus to develop electrical skills.
Students should have the average grade required to enroll in a community college or vocational school to obtain their training.
- Attend classes or apply for apprenticeship (a few months to a few years).
The prospective apprentices should be 18+ years old and obtain a high school diploma or GED.
The standards of the Department of Labor (DOL) apprenticeship requirements involve 144 coursework hours.
Paid practical hours amount to 2,200 for each year.
Community college or vocational school programs usually last for two years.
Upon completion, graduates can obtain a certificate or an Associate in Applied Science degree.
A list of wind energy education courses is available through the US Department of Energy.
The programs are available both on-campus and online.
Wind energy programs comprise such disciplines as aerodynamic theory, control systems, electronics, hydraulics.
Also, technical math, environmental concerns, design principles are included.
Students should learn about safety procedures as well.
Depending on the school and student, the timing can vary.
Some programs take only nine months to complete.
- Advanced degree or certificate (a few months to a few years).
To move up the career ladder, the wind turbine technicians need diverse skills.
With degrees in engineering, renewable energy, wind farm development, etc., students can obtain better job opportunities.
There are also certifications available to get additional skills and advanced training through industry associations.
Wind techs can obtain certifications through the following organizations:
The students learn safety procedures and assembling the components under the extreme conditions in high pressure.
- The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The focus is on electrical safety.
Students learn how to avoid electrical injuries and work with electrical distribution systems.
- The American Red Cross.
The course teaches how to administer first aid and CPR ending with mandatory certificates.
- Licensure (various timing).
A driving license is required due to the remote locations of the work sites.
Independent contractors need a technician license in most states.
Wind turbine technicians can work in public utilities and other power-related organizations with a necessary license and permits.
All technicians are expected to check the local regulations and obtain all the necessary licenses accordingly before starting to work.
Wind Turbine Technician Wages
A few factors that determine salaries include experience, skills, and education.
According to Payscale, the average hourly rate of wind turbine technicians is $21.35 to $23.58.
New technicians earn 6% less than the average employees.
Experienced technicians can make 34% more than the average.
According to the BLS for 2017, the average annual salary of wind techs amounts to $56,680 with $53,880 median salary.
The wages of the technicians can also depend on the industry in which they work.
For example, in electric power generation, the salary is $58,430.
In the construction of the utility systems technicians make $49,840 annually.
Repair and maintenance pay off by $47,250 while professional, scientific, and technical service areas wages are $50,680.
The wages also vary from state to state.
In the states where coal mining was replaced by renewable energy production, the population decreased.
Therefore, more job openings appeared.
The coal miners possess the necessary skills for a wind turbine technician job.
While most of the miners moved as the demand for the profession decreased, those who stayed are widely sought-after.
So, according to the BLS, the highest average payment per year was offered in West Virginia ($64,860), Iowa ($62,320), Colorado ($61,450).
Both South and North Dakotas are among the highest paying states with $61,190 and $60,360 respectively.
Perspectives of the Wind Turbine Technician Career
Wind turbine technicians are sought-after across the entire country.
Currently, the work is available on the existing projects.
In the near future, new construction projects will become available.
The growth in job opportunities is rapidly increasing by 96%.
This rate is predicted for the period between 2016 and 2026.
This is about 90% faster than other occupations in the US, which is 7%.
With the required education and appropriate experience, the wind turbine technicians will be able to find steady work quickly.
It is known that some students are employed before they finish their training.
This is caused by the urgent necessity for more technicians.
In this instance, they undergo extensive training on the job.
Offshore wind farms are expected to become the principal employer shortly since the number of wind farms is rapidly increasing.
Technicians experienced in the installation of the wind turbines will be in demand.
Besides installation, maintenance, and repairing of the turbines, the workers will be engaged in technical and logistic processes of new farms construction.
Experienced technicians can obtain supervisory positions in project management, research, etc.