Wind turbines use the unending power of air currents to create electrical energy. Because these devices are mechanical, they depend on technicians for regular servicing and repair. Also known as wind techs, these professionals diagnose and fix problems with turbines. Most work on wind farms that gather several turbines into a central location.
Compared to other sources of power, wind energy is a relatively new technology, so training for professions related to it doesn’t yet follow a standard prescription. Some technical schools and community colleges offer one-year certificates and two-year associate degrees in wind-turbine maintenance. A few technicians enter the profession from the electrical or construction trades and learn skills on the job. Although certification or a prescribed course of study is not yet standard, the American Wind Energy Association as of 2013 was developing guidelines for a curriculum and was creating a list of accredited programs that adhere to the guidelines.
Because wind turbines are usually located in windy areas far away from development, wind technicians must travel frequently or live in remote locations. Through a rotating schedule that determines which group of turbines need servicing, technicians climb the devices to the nacelle, where most of the machinery is located. They then inspect equipment, record and report any problems, and make repairs. The compact nacelles have very little working room inside, so techs must be able to hold awkward positions throughout their time there. Occasionally, they attach themselves to the outside of the nacelles to do their work.
Technicians must climb several hundred feet to reach their work areas and then perform their jobs at great heights surrounded by high-voltage devices, so safety becomes the most important concern. They must be physically fit to perform this strenuous activity on several towers in a shift. For many technicians, the first task of the day is to attend safety briefings in the morning, so they can receive warnings about potential hazards and prepare gear such as harnesses, hardhats, insulating suits and safety goggles. They typically work in teams of two and must turn off the power to turbines before they enter.
As an example of a wind turbine technician, Michael Adams works for Siemens around Des Moines, Iowa. He entered his profession in 2010 after taking a one-year wind turbine course at Pinnacle Career Institute, where he earned a 4.0 GPS and a spot on the president’s honor roll. Previous to that, he spent 11 years as a field technician for several companies, primarily inspecting, testing and troubleshooting structures and their components, including steel welding, reinforced concrete, asphalt densities and reinforced steel. His certifications beyond wind turbine technician include crane and chain hoist, rigging, structural inspection and U.S. regional safety compliance.
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