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In 2015, wind energy became the #1 source of new generating capacity in the U.S., according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
So now, wind energy has become the modern era’s new way of sustainable eco-friendly power generation.
Because of this, we now call for wind turbine electricians, or wind techs, for wind energy-related services.
They will install, maintain, and repair the tower turbine assemblies generating clean wind energy.
Below, you’ll learn more about wind techs and how you can become one.
Wind Techs at Work
Wind turbine electricians start their day early.
The prevailing in the North American adiabatic cycle means that winds are lower early in the morning.
This is when wind techs work up there on the towers.
After the morning meeting with their team, wind techs take a long drive to the tower they will be working on.
Wind farms are usually located in remote places, with high-energy wind farms taking thousands of acres.
In these farms, the towers need to have enough space between them.
The space ensures unimpeded airflow passes through the rotors, at least 10 rotor clearance diameters.
Other farms are situated on towers built on the seafloor where the wind blows constantly.
Wind techs working in such farms get to work by helicopter or boat.
Working in High and Small Spaces
Wind techs need to overcome two phobias at work: fear of confined spaces and fear of heights.
Even though towers can reach 200 feet in the air, when the techs are on the top, they have to squeeze into tight spaces.
The streamlined housing is designed to be so for aerodynamics, but access isn’t easy.
There is plenty of machinery in motion, and some of them are powered by 600 volts of electricity.
This makes safety a critical aspect for wind techs.
They choose the time of low-wind conditions to work and apply precautions such as safety harnesses with multiple attachment points.
They usually feather the turbine blades or turn them in the airflow, so they don’t have the aerodynamic bite to turn.
Also, the generator will be shut down while they work.
New Designs Mitigate Old Hazards
Wind techs face significant dangers while at work.
These may be caused by…
- Strong winds
- Tall heights
- Lightweight equipment
Also, it’s estimated that one out of a hundred turbine blades eventually breaks, resulting in a dangerous imbalance in the spinning turbine.
The guillotine blade slicing down from overhead toward those who work on the ground is another hazard.
The new designs of towers reduce some of these dangers.
For instance, vertical windmills now take the shape of a corkscrew or tubular shape.
This results in the operating machinery being on the ground, making services more convenient and safer.
Collecting and Transmitting Electricity
While the energy is abundant and clean, it should be harvested in dribbles.
An individual turbine can put out less than two megawatts at the highest capacity, enough to power 300 homes.
But to power a city, the 600-volt power from the turbine should be combined with the power from the surrounding generators, totaling over 30,000 volts.
It’s jumped up using the transformers to be injected into transmission lines of high-capacity for the trip to the urban centers.
Wind techs should install and maintain the wiring on and to the transformer banks.
They work with the linemen of electrical companies to connect to the larger power grid.
Becoming a Wind Turbine Electrician
When considering becoming a wind turbine electrician, know that you’ll work in the most remote areas where the wind blows most.
You’ll most likely make long commutes and travels and may even have to relocate for work.
If you’re up for this, then you can begin preparing for this career, starting with education and training.
Standard Training Through a Trade School
Most wind techs start in the field through post-secondary programs from technical or trade schools.
The program will fully prepare you for the role and tasks attached to the career.
- 144 hours of technical training
- Over 2,000 hours of on-the-job training
During that time, you’ll learn safety, electrical theory, and mechanical systems maintenance.
Afterward, you’ll spend up to one year of apprenticeship before advancing to journeyman.
As a journeyman, you can work on wind turbines with little to no supervision.
Using Your Background as an Electrician to Become a Wind Tech
The demand for wind turbine electricians is high and the numbers of qualified candidates are quite low.
So, many employers hire general electricians and then specially train them for wind turbine work.
However, wind power companies require at least some experience as an electrician.
So those who wish to apply directly without any relevant experience may have to take a conventional electrician apprenticeship to be qualified.
Apprentices, journeymen, and master electricians can become wind techs with little specialized training.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) helps journeymen members transition to wind turbine work with special training.
Job Outlook and Salary
The wind power industry opened 15,000 new jobs in 2014 nationwide, according to the AWEA, which is a 20% increase.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 108% growth in the industry of wind energy over the next 10 years.
So anyone entering the field in the upcoming years will benefit from excellent job prospects.
The BLS also projected a rise in salary.
Wind techs made a median salary of $51,050 in 2015, with the top 10% earning over $71,000.
In 2016, the job ads for wind techs offers the following salaries (for your reference):
- Wind Turbine Technician in Oklahoma – $20 to $28/hour
- Entry-level wind turbine technician in Iowa – $16.50/hour with full benefits
- Electrical and Instrumentation Technician in California – $100,000/year
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