Are you drawn to big machinery? Enjoy working with tools? Do you support “green” energy—and energy conservation in general? If you answered yes to these questions, you might want to consider pursuing a career in wind energy as a wind turbine technician.
Most people think that an engineering degree is necessary to do any type of work on a wind farm. While this is true for designing and creating wind turbines, you don’t need an engineering degree to become a wind turbine technician. Technically, you don’t even need to be certified, but proper training and knowledge of wind turbines and their systems is a must.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to become a wind turbine technician, no matter your education or background.
What Is A Wind Turbine?
To understand the importance of wind turbine technicians, you need to understand what a wind turbine is. Wind turbines generate electricity by utilizing wind energy. The turbine has three primary components: the blades (like a fan), a tower, and a nacelle, which houses smaller parts like the generator and gearbox.
As the wind passes the turbine, the blades capture its kinetic energy. As it rotates, the turbine transforms the kinetic energy into mechanical energy and then transfers that energy into the turbine’s generator. This process produces electricity.
What Does A Wind Turbine Technician?
That out of the way, let’s look at what a wind turbine technician is and their duties. Wind turbine technicians, or wind techs, deal with the everyday operation of a wind turbine. Their job entails installing, maintaining, and repairing wind turbines. Technicians must understand every aspect of wind energy to be successful at their jobs.
As a technician, your job would be to:
- Inspect the wind turbine to ensure that it’s running properly and strong enough to stand on its own
- Climb the turbine for inspection purposes, and perform repair work when needed
- Maintain the turbine so that it will continue to produce electricity
- Inspect the various components of the turbine, including its electrical and mechanical components
- Troubleshoot to assess problems with different parts of the turbine and find solutions
- Replace components that are outdated, worn out, or malfunctioning
- Collect and report data from the turbine for research and analysis purposes
- Service other systems that are part of the turbine, which include the wind field substation and the underground transmission systems
Of course, this isn’t an all-inclusive list, and your duties may vary based on the specifics of your position, but this is a fair sampling of typical work-related tasks.
Most wind turbine technicians work on wind farms, keeping an eye on the turbines to ensure they continue functioning correctly. Being a wind tech requires a lot of physical work since it requires climbing up and down turbines, which can be as tall as 262 feet or more, for inspection. Repair work may also require some heavy lifting.
How To Become A Wind Turbine Technician
While wind technology is still a growing industry, there are already certain education and training requirements necessary to enter the field. Keep in mind that some requirements may vary from state to state and even employer.
Educational Requirements & Recommendations
Like many other technical jobs, you need a fair amount of knowledge to become a wind tech. However, you don’t need a degree from a four-year college. Getting a license or certificate isn’t a requirement either, but most wind farms prefer that wind techs have certification. Certification proves to them that you’ve received the proper training to fulfill your duties as a wind turbine technician.
Numerous technical schools and community colleges offer certification programs and associate degrees, providing you with all the wind energy technology knowledge you will need. Most wind tech programs are two-year programs, and many are available online.
Certifications & Licenses
Professional certification makes it easier for wind techs to land a job. While certification is not mandatory, most employers prefer it as it shows knowledge and competence. They need to be sure that the technicians working on their wind turbines are familiar with the safety precautions, tower climbing, and parts of the turbine. Institutions that offer wind tech certification cover such subjects in the course, so you are fully prepared for the job.
Internships & Training
Wind farms continue to take advantage of innovative technology to enhance the energy that turbines produce. Towers are now more technologically-advanced and also larger, allowing them to generate more energy. Turbines’ reliance on technology creates a constant need to monitor and maintain them. Doing so ensures that technicians can detect problems early and resolve them immediately, causing little-to-no downtime.
Maintaining newer wind turbines requires a higher level of training than ever before. Wind techs must be familiar with all the turbine technology as well as the mechanical processes if they are to diagnose and repair any issues that arise correctly. Most training at either a technical school or community college will prepare you for this role.
Technical schools that offer wind turbine technician training will usually have wind turbines onsite to provide you with hands-on experience. Experiential training provides students with a deeper understanding of turbines than just reading about them in books. A wind tech program also teaches the following:
- First aid training, which includes safety and CPR training
- Maintenance of the wind turbine, which includes the electrical and hydraulic components
- The overall braking system, its functions, and its components
- Inspection of various systems, including the mechanical system and the blades
Keep in mind that no one becomes a wind tech overnight. In the program, you will receive 144 hours of coursework with technical instruction and over 2,200 hours of training, covering safety, mechanical systems, maintenance, and repair work.
The rigorous process includes more than 12 months of training plus an internship, which gives prospects the chance to work on specific wind turbines. This valuable opportunity allows students to practice servicing and repairing wind turbines under the supervision of and by the side of experienced wind techs.
In addition to internships, an apprenticeship is another option that is suitable for individual contractors. All you need to qualify for the apprenticeship is to be mentally and physically fit for the job and also have a high school diploma with a year of high school algebra.
Recommended Skills For A Wind Turbine Technician
As in any other job, specific skills are essential for wind techs. The assigned duties and environment in which you work require the following skills:
- Communication skills: Being able to communicate with others, both verbally and in writing, is an essential skill. Wind techs generally work in teams, so being able to communicate well with your partner at all times is critical. Also, gathering and reporting data are vital elements for monitoring and maintaining wind turbines. While speaking and reporting, a wind tech needs to be detail-oriented: carefully logging all of the specific data about the turbines, describing the services performed in minute detail, and maintaining records about the turbine.
- Mechanical skills: As a wind turbine technician, you should know your way around tools and how to maintain and repair all things mechanical, from the electrical system to the hydraulics. The training will teach you the particulars for turbine work, but people who already have a knack for tools and mechanical work can learn turbine technical work more effectively.
- Physical stamina and strength: Being a wind turbine technician job requires a lot of climbing and heavy equipment lifting. You will need to be healthy and in excellent physical condition to perform such tasks throughout the day every day.
- Problem-solving skills: Like any machine, wind turbines have multiple systems working in harmony. As a technician, you’ll need to diagnose any problems that occur with the turbine’s systems and repair them using strong critical thinking skills.
Having these skills alone won’t automatically make you a quality wind tech. You also need specialized training. However, people who can bring these pre-existing skills to the job have a head start at building a successful career as a wind turbine technician.
Pros & Cons Of Being A Wind Turbine Technician
Now that you have a good understanding of what a diesel mechanic does we can talk about the pros and cons of this career to help you decide if it is right for you.
- Accessibility to almost anyone with proper communication and problem-solving skills who enjoys hands-on work
- Qualifications don’t require a four-year college degree—the only educational requirement is usually a two-year associate degree from a technical school or and community college
- Growing demand for wind techs as the world looks to invest in green energy
- Opportunity to work in the outdoors
- A physically active job that keeps you healthy and in shape
- A decent salary of around $80,000 annually, based on education and experience
- Longer working hours, often more than 40 hours a week
- Job location is usually rural rather than urban since wind turbine locations are in rural areas—if you’re a city person, you may need to relocate
- A strenuous and exhausting job due to long hours and physical activity required
How Much Do Wind Turbine Technicians Make
The salary of a wind turbine technician varies based on education and experience. In 2019, the median annual wage of wind techs was $52,910, and the annual salary range was between $38,000 and $80,000. You can expect to earn the median pay scale once you have a couple of years of experience on the job and certification from a reputable institution.
Like most professions, the more functions you can perform as a wind tech, the higher your salary—your training and skills play a vital role in determining your annual wage. For example, those who can only perform repair and maintenance duties earn less than those who can provide technical services.
An individual who can perform both tasks will earn more. The pay also varies from state to state, with wind turbine technicians receiving higher income in West Virginia, Washington, Colorado, and Illinois than in other states.
The job requires wind techs to work full-time and, at times, to put in overtime. In case of emergencies, wind techs need to come in during evening hours and weekends due to the need for immediate repair work when a turbine develops a problem. Prospective wind turbine technicians should anticipate the need to be on call at odd hours.
Wind Turbine Technician Job Outlook
Most states are looking for ways to generate energy from more environment-friendly sources, so the government continues to invest heavily in solar and wind farms to generate electricity. This trend has resulted in a rise in demand for wind techs.
The outlook for wind turbine technicians is positive–the job demand is projected to grow nearly 61% in the next ten years. That rate of growth is higher than that of 75% of careers. This job demand correlates to the projected investment from both the government and private firms in wind turbines for energy generation.
Wind tech job outlook also varies from state to state. Wind farms are generally located in rural areas and along the East and West coasts. Midwestern and coastal states will likely offer more opportunities for wind techs than others.
Wind Turbine Technician Schools
The training cost to become a wind tech varies depending upon many factors, such as whether you opt to go to a technical school or community college, how extensive the course is, and the type of onsite training that it may entail. You can find numerous trade schools and community colleges across the U.S. that offer wind tech training.
The typical cost for training ranges from $5,000 to $8,000 per year at a community college, varying by state. Keep in mind that these training costs don’t include textbooks and living expenses. If you plan to enroll in a community college outside your city or town of residence and need to relocate, be sure to do some research and account for living costs.
When opting for training, make sure that the program covers all aspects of the wind turbine technician’s job. The more through your coursework and training, the better equipped you will be when you go out on the job. Thus, it may be better to opt for more expensive and comprehensive training.
Likewise, be sure to check what type of on-the-job training and internships the school or college offers. Coursework is undoubtedly essential, but you will learn how to apply your textbook learning to repair and maintenance work through hands-on experience.
Thinking About Becoming a Wind Turbine Technician?
With a steady rise in demand for wind techs, the sooner you start your training and work towards certification, the better. While it is a specialized field, you will find many individuals opting for this career due to the demand.
In the current economy and job market, many people are looking to retool and learn new skills to apply to a new trade. Because working as a wind turbine technician is a relatively new career option, you may not have heard much about it. However, if you are mechanically minded and looking for a rewarding job, this one might be just the right niche for you if you’re willing to go to school to get training for it.
Now is the time to get in on this well-paying job track. Not sure you want to work on wind turbines? We can help. Check out our other career profiles right here at BlueCollar Brain to learn more about other high-paying positions that may pique your interest.
*Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics