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Wind turbine electricians, or wind techs, install, wire, and maintain the tower turbine assemblies generating clean wind energy.
Wind energy is a new modern era of sustainable eco-friendly power generation.
In 2015, wind energy was the #1 source of new generating capacity in the US, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
All wind projects reduced the carbon emissions by 132 million tons, which is equal to getting 28 million cars off the road.
- How a Wind Tech’s Day Starts
- Wind Turbine Electricians Work in High and Small Spaces
- Becoming a Wind Power Technician
How a Wind Tech’s Day Starts
Wind turbine electricians start their day early.
Even though the wind is essential to propelling the massive, nearly 150 feet long, blades, no one wishes to work on a rattling tower in 20-knot wings at 400 feet in the air.
The prevailing in the North America adiabatic cycle means that winds are the lower early in the morning.
This is when wind techs work up there on the towers.
After the morning meeting with their team at a central maintenance depot, wind turbine electricians take a long drive to the tower they will be working on.
Wind farms are usually located in remote places, and it’s essential that the towers have enough space between them.
It is important for them to have unimpeded airflow to pass through the rotors, at least 10 rotor clearance diameters.
A high-energy wind farm can take thousands of acres.
Other farms are situated on towers built on the sea-floor, out in the waters where the wind blows constantly.
Wind turbine electricians working on such farms get to work by a helicopter or a boat.
Wind Turbine Electricians Work in High and Small Spaces
Wind techs need to overcome two common phobias, that can be contradictory: 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 the access isn’t easy.
There is plenty of machinery, lots of which are in motion, and some of them are powered by 600 volts of electricity.
Safety is critical for wind turbine electricians.
They choose the time of low-wind conditions to work and apply common 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, and the generator will be shut down while they work.
New Designs Mitigate Old Hazards
They can still face significant dangers.
With height and wind, they should be constantly vigilant.
Another hazard can be light-weight equipment.
It’s estimated that one out of a hundred turbine blades eventually breaks, which can put a dangerous imbalance into the spinning turbine.
Also, the guillotine blade slicing down from overhead towards those who work on the ground is another hazard.
The new designs of towers reduce some danger.
With vertical windmills in the shape of a corkscrew or tubular shapes, the operating machinery is on the ground.
So servicing is more convenient and safer.
Collecting and Transmitting All That Electricity
While the energy is abundant and clean, it should be harvested in dribbles.
An individual turbine can put out less than 2 megawatts at the highest capacity, which is enough to power 300 homes.
It’s good, but not enough for a city.
So, the power from the turbine, 600 volts, should be combined with the power from the surrounding generators and increased to over 30,000 volts.
It is jumped up using the transformers to be efficiently 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 the electrical company to connect to the larger power grid.
Becoming a Wind Power Technician
When looking for a position of a turbine electrician, you should remember that the jobs are primarily taking place in the country areas where the wind blows most.
Even there, the farms are typically located far from the urban areas for the reasons of noise, unimpeded airflow, and safety.
Wind turbine electricians make long commutes and may have to relocate to follow the work.
Standard Training Through a Trade School
Most wind electricians start in the field through the technical or trade school.
The candidates get fully prepared for the positions through two-year community college programs, such as the one in Wind Energy and Turbine Technology at Clinton Community College in New York.
Even as they are hired, wind techs usually spend up to a year as an apprentice before advancing to the level of a journeyman electrician.
They take 144 hours of technical training and over 2000 of on-the-job training in safety, electrical, and mechanical systems maintenance.
After that, they can work on wind turbines without 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 of them are hired without extensive preparation but are trained on-the-job.
However, wind power companies require at least some experience as an electrician.
So those who wish to apply directly without any experience in the wind power 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 the wind turbine work with special training.
For example, one is offered at a new facility that opened in Nebraska in 2009.
The wind power industry opened 15,000 new jobs in 2014 nationwide, according to the AWEA, which is a 20% increase.
The BLS predicted a 108% growth in the industry of wind energy over the next 10 years.
It means that there will be a large shortage of wind electricians.
Anyone who is entering the field in the upcoming years will benefit from excellent job prospects.
The BLS also projects a rise in the salary.
Wind techs made a median salary of $51,050 in 2015.
Apprentices make around 60% of the journeymen salary, while the top 10% earn over $71,000.
In 2016, the jobs for wind techs included:
- 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.
Wind turbine electricians usually work a regular schedule and can be on-call for emergency service.
They may also have the workday dependent on the wind patterns, starting early in the morning and finishing in the early afternoon.