Harnessing the power of the wind. Sounds easy enough right? It’s just a big pole with blades on top. How hard can that be? Let’s take a look at a day in the life of a wind turbine technician to see if you really have what it takes!
Are You Qualified?
Installing and maintaining wind turbines isn’t like installing cable in someone’s house. You need to have real electrical technician experience and knowledge. A list of job qualifications for a wind turbine technician looks something like this:
- Technical Engineering Education or Equivalent Experience
- Electrical and Mechanical Education or Equivalent Experience
- Minimum of 3 years experience in hydraulic, electrical and/or mechanical fieldswithin an industrial environment. For example, heavy industrial equipment maintenance, power station, industrial plant, etc.
While this may seem as though extensive education in the electrical and industrial engineering fields are required, some companies will go a step further and require you to be Wind Energy Certified.
This certification shows that you have been educated both in a classroom and in a hands-on environment to work on wind turbines. To put it in the words of Josh Farrington, the Wind Technician Lead Faculty for Pinnacle Career Institute, “If you don’t have experience, it’s kind of hard to get the job.” That’s why he recommends newcomers to the wind technician field start their career with third party contractors.
This is a good way to gain real-world experience that you can then take with you as you progress your career and move on to another company.
You’ve Got The Job! Now What?
Most technician jobs require you to be able to work independently. Go to the site. Troubleshoot the problem. Fix it. This is true for wind turbine technicians as well, but there is a little more to it. Yes you’ll need to diagnose the issue but you will also need to:
- Climb the turbine tower to maintain and repair the blades and other equipment.
- Troubleshoot and repair any hydraulic, mechanical and/or electrical malfunctions as they relate to variable speed, pitch, or converter systems and components.
- Start and restart generator systems.
- Maintain tools and parts inventories to ensure you always have what you need to fix the problem the first time.
This is just your daily task list. Of course, there will be days where everything is functioning correctly and you don’t have any problems to troubleshoot.
That’s when you do inspections and routine maintenance such as physically inspecting the components of the turbine and test all the systems to be able to stop a malfunction before it starts.
You will also be required to perform tests on the electrical systems using testers such as infrared and voltage testers, fiber optic equipment, oscilloscopes, and multimeters. While this is only done on a weekly to monthly basis, you will still need to know how to perform these functions.
The Work Environment
When most people talk about the work environment, they are referring to the attitudes and behaviors of their co-workers. The cultural environment of the workplace. When wind turbine technicians talk about the work environment they mean the literal environment.
When you see a picture of a wind farm it’s usually sunny with blue skies and fluffy white clouds. What you don’t see is the technicians in Colorado who are having to service a wind turbine while it’s snowing, or the technicians in Oklahoma repairing electrical systems in 100° temperatures.
Because of these environmental conditions as well as the physical demands, attention to safety is crucial. Mike Fryrear, a wind technician in Colorado states that safety is always at the forefront of what they do. “We start off our morning meeting and we start off with a risk assessment. And we go over safety first so that everybody has that in the forefront of their mind before we ever leave the shop.”
Being a wind technician isn’t as easy as you once thought?
For those with the technical expertise and the drive it can be a wonderful job. Every day is something new and you will never hear yourself complain about being stuck behind a desk!
So the next time we drive by a wind farm in the middle of winter, we’ll be thinking about the people working tirelessly to keep those turbines running. Who knows? It could be you!