Harnessing the power of the wind is now exploited on a commercial scale. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind-generating capacity grew a robust 39 percent annually from 2004 to 2009 and is anticipated to grow even more rapidly given the increasing demand for renewable energy. Modern wind turbines need engineers to design and produce them as well as wind turbine technicians to install and maintain them.
Wind Turbine Technician Training
Wind turbines are complex electromechanical devices that require extensive training to install and repair. Many community colleges and some vocational schools offer one-year certificate or two-year associate degree programs in wind turbine technology. Classes typically include basic turbine design, diagnostics, accessing control and monitoring systems as well as the fundamentals of turbine repair. Most wind turbine training programs provide an opportunity for an internship with local turbine owners or hands-on practice on school-owned or retired turbines.
Wind Turbine Technician Duties
Some wind turbine technicians are involved in the make-ready phase of turbine installation, but most are employed as maintenance and repair technicians. Most wind turbine maintenance activities are performed inside the housing, where the gears and control electronics are located. Wind turbine techs are responsible for cleaning and lubricating shafts, bearings and gears. They sometimes replace parts or use sensor devices to diagnose problems. Turbine techs sometimes work on the exterior of the housing, which means suiting up in a safety harness to work suspended hundreds of feet above the ground. Other duties include ordering spare parts and maintaining an inventory of replacement parts.
Wind Turbine Engineer Education
Wind turbine engineers complete a four-year bachelor's degree in engineering. Engineering programs typically include lots of math and physics, as well as engineering theory, engineering software and a good bit of lab work. Wind turbine engineers often come from aerospace engineering backgrounds, but many types of engineers are employed in various aspects of the wind turbine industry.
Wind Turbine Engineer Duties
Wind turbine engineers come from a variety of engineering backgrounds and play different roles in the design, production and installation of turbines. Materials and aerospace engineers design wind turbines; electrical and electronics engineers develop and test the electrical and control systems; civil engineers design roads, support buildings and the tower and foundation of the wind turbine; environmental engineers assess the noise, visual impact, effect on local fauna and interference with radar and telecommunications related to wind turbines.
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