Wind Turbine Technicians
|Quick Facts: Wind Turbine Technicians|
|2017 Median Pay||$53,880 per year
$25.91 per hour
|Typical Entry-Level Education||Postsecondary nondegree award|
|Work Experience in a Related Occupation||None|
|On-the-job Training||Long-term on-the-job training|
|Number of Jobs, 2016||5,800|
|Job Outlook, 2016-26||96% (Much faster than average)|
|Employment Change, 2016-26||5,600|
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Wind Turbine Technicians Career, Salary, and Education Information
What Wind Turbine Technicians Do
Wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.
wind turbine technicians
Duties of Wind Turbine Technicians
Wind turbine service technicians typically do the following:
Inspect the exterior and physical integrity of wind turbine towers
Climb wind turbine towers to inspect or repair wind turbine equipment
Perform routine maintenance on wind turbines
Test and troubleshoot electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic components and systems
Replace worn or malfunctioning components
Collect turbine data for testing or research and analysis
Service underground transmission systems, wind field substations, or fiber optic sensing and control systems
Wind turbines are large mechanical devices that convert wind energy into electricity. The turbine is made up of three major components: a tower, three blades, and a nacelle, which is composed of an outer case, generator, gearbox, and brakes. Wind turbine service technicians install and repair the components of these structures.
Although some windtechs are involved in building new wind turbines, most of their work is in maintaining them, particularly the nacelles, which contain the equipment that generates electricity.
Maintenance schedules are largely determined by a turbine’s hours in operation, but can also vary by manufacturer. Turbines are monitored electronically from a central office, 24 hours a day. When a problem is detected, windtechs travel to the worksite and make the repairs. Typical maintenance includes inspecting components and lubricating parts. For turbines that operate year round, routine maintenance may occur one to three times a year.
Windtechs use safety harnesses and a variety of hand and power tools to do their work. They also use computers to diagnose electrical malfunctions. Most turbine monitoring equipment is located in the nacelle, which can be accessed both onsite and off.
Work Environment for Wind Turbine Technicians
Wind turbine technicians held about 5,800 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of wind turbine technicians were as follows:
Electric power generation: 31%
Repair and maintenance: 23%
Self-employed workers: 17%
Utility system construction: 15%
Professional, scientific, and technical services: 5%
Wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, generally work outdoors, often at great heights and with a partner. For example, when repairing blades, windtechs rappel—or descend by sliding down a rope—from the nacelle to the section of the blade that needs servicing. To reach the mechanical equipment, workers must climb ladders—sometimes more than 260 feet tall—while wearing a fall protection harness and carrying tools. When maintaining mechanical systems, windtechs work in the confined space of the nacelle.
For major service or repairs, additional windtechs and other specialists, such as electricians, may be needed to complete the job quickly.
Although the majority of windtechs work full time, they may also be on call to handle emergencies during evenings and weekends. When a wind turbine is not functioning, technicians must find the problem and make the necessary repairs as quickly as possible. Windtechs often travel to rural areas, where many wind farms are located.
How to Become a Wind Turbine Technician
Most wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, learn their trade by attending a technical school. They are also trained by their employer after hiring.
Most windtechs learn their trade by attending technical schools or community colleges, where they typically complete certificates in wind energy technology, although some workers choose to earn an associate’s degree.
Many technical schools have onsite wind turbines that students can work on as part of their studies. In addition to lab coursework, other areas of focus that reflect the various skill sets needed to do the job include the following:
Rescue, safety, first aid, and CPR training
Mechanical systems, including blade inspection and maintenance
Computers and programmable logic control systems
In addition to their coursework, windtechs typically receive more than 12 months of on-the-job training related to the specific wind turbines they will maintain and service. Part of this training is manufacturer training. Other training may include an internship with a wind turbine servicing contractor.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not mandatory, professional certification can demonstrate a basic level of knowledge and competence. Some employers prefer to hire workers who are already certified in subjects such as workplace electrical safety, tower climbing, and self-rescue. There are many organizations who offer certifications in each of these subjects, and some certificate and degree programs include these certifications.
Communication skills. Windtechs rely on proper communication with their coworkers in order to perform their duties safely and effectively.
Detail oriented. Windtechs must maintain records of all of the services they perform. Turbine maintenance requires precise measurements, a strict order of operations, and numerous safety procedures.
Mechanical skills. Windtechs must understand and be able to maintain and repair all mechanical, hydraulic, braking, and electrical systems of a turbine.
Physical stamina. Windtechs must be able to climb to the tops of turbines, often with tools and equipment. Some tower ladders may be 260 feet high or taller.
Physical strength. Windtechs must lift heavy equipment, parts, and tools, some of which weigh in excess of 50 pounds.
Troubleshooting skills. Windtechs must diagnose and repair problems. When a turbine performs abnormally, technicians must determine the cause and make the necessary repairs.
Salaries for Wind Turbine Technicians
The median annual wage for wind turbine technicians was $53,880 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,170.
In May 2017, the median annual wages for wind turbine technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
Electric power generation: $58,430
Professional, scientific, and technical services: $50,680
Utility system construction: $49,840
Repair and maintenance: $47,250
The majority of wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, work full time, and they may also be on call to handle emergencies during evenings and weekends. When a wind turbine is not functioning, technicians must find the problem and make the necessary repairs as quickly as possible. Windtechs often travel to rural areas, where many wind farms are located.
Job Outlook for Wind Turbine Technicians
Employment of wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, is projected to grow 96 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 5,600 new jobs over the 10-year period.
Development of taller towers with larger blades has reduced the cost of wind power generation, making it more competitive with coal, natural gas, and other forms of power generation. As additional wind turbines are erected, more windtechs will be needed to install and maintain turbines.
Job prospects are expected to be excellent. The number of wind turbines being installed is increasing, which should result in continuing demand for windtechs. Job opportunities vary by individual state. Wind farms are generally more prevalent in the Great Plains, the Midwest, and along coasts, and windtechs will likely find more job opportunities in these areas.
Employment projections data for Wind Turbine Technicians, 2016-26
Employment, 2016: 5,800
Projected Employment, 2026: 11,300
Change, 2016-2026: +96%, +5,500
Careers Related to Wind Turbine Technicians
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Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Wind Turbine Technicians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/wind-turbine-technicians.htm