Are you drawn to big machinery?
Enjoy working with tools?
Do you support the idea of wind power?
If you answered yes to these questions, you might want to consider pursuing a career in wind energy as a wind turbine technician or “wind techs” as some like to call them.
Most people think that an engineering degree is necessary to do any type of work on a wind farm or wind turbine. While this is true for designing and creating wind turbines, you don’t need an engineering degree to become a wind turbine technician.
A high school diploma or equivalent and some training are all you need to get started!
Technically, you don’t even need to be certified, but proper training and knowledge of a wind turbine and its systems are 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 Do?
That is out of the way, let’s look at what a wind turbine technician is and their duties. Wind turbine technicians deal with the everyday operation of a wind turbine.
If you become a wind turbine technician, your job would be to:
- Inspect wind turbine towers to ensure that it’s running properly and strong enough to stand on their own
- Climb the turbine for inspection purposes, and perform repair work when needed
- Perform routine maintenance so that it will continue to produce electricity
- Troubleshoot to assess problems with different parts of the turbine including electrical systems, control systems, mechanical and hydraulic issues, braking systems, and more
- Replace malfunctioning components that are no longer working or damaged
- Collect and report turbine data for research and analysis purposes
- Service other systems that are part of the turbine, which include wind field substations 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.
How To Become A Wind Turbine Technician
While the wind energy industry is still growing, there are already certain education and training requirements necessary to enter the field.
You will need to have a high school diploma or equivalent to become a wind turbine technician.
Keep in mind that some requirements may vary from state to state and even employer.
Educational Requirements + Recommendations
Like many other technical jobs, wind turbine technicians require a bit of education and training.
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 workers learn their trade with a certification program. 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 or an associate’s degree, providing you with all the wind energy technology knowledge you will need. Most programs are two-year programs, and many are available online.
Professional certification makes it easier 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 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 a new wind turbine requires a higher level of training than ever before. Wind turbine technicians must be familiar with all the turbine technology, equipment and mechanical processes if they are going to diagnose and repair any issues that arise.
Technical schools that offer training for wind turbine service technicians will usually have a onsite wind turbines to provide you with hands-on experience so you are ready for jobs that come your way. 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
- 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 technician overnight. In the program, future wind turbine service technicians 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 education 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 a more experienced wind turbine servicing contractor.
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
Having these skills alone won’t automatically make you a successful wind turbine worker. You also need specialized training as noted above. However, people who can bring these additional skills to the job have a head start at building a successful career as a wind turbine technician.
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. A wind tech needs to be detail-oriented so they can carefully log all of the specific data about the turbines.
As a wind turbine technician, you should know your way around tools and how to maintain and repair all things mechanical. This includes the electrical system to the hydraulics.
Being a wind turbine technician job requires a lot of climbing and the ability to lift heavy equipment. You will need to be healthy and in excellent physical condition to perform well. To repair wind turbines you also must be able to work in confined spaces and not be fearful of heights.
Like any machine, wind turbines have multiple systems working in harmony. As a technician, you’ll need to diagnose when a turbine performs abnormally and be able to provide the typical maintenance to repair it.
Pros & Cons Of Being A Wind Turbine Technician
Now that you have a good understanding of what a wind turbine technician does we can talk about the pros and cons of doing it as a career.
- Accessibility to almost anyone with proper communication and problem-solving skills who enjoys hands-on work
- A four-year college degree is not required. The only educational requirement is usually a two-year associate degree from a technical school or community college
- Growing demand for wind techs as the world looks to invest in green and renewable energy
- Workers will spend most of the time 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 locations are usually rural rather than urban. If you’re a city person, you may need to relocate
- A strenuous and exhausting job due to long hours and physical activity required
- Requires working in confined spaces and extreme heights that can be as much as 260 feet high
How Much Do Wind Turbine Technicians Make
The salary of a wind turbine technician varies based on education and experience. In 2020, the median annual wage of wind techs was $56,230 as listed by the U.S Department of Labor.
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 Salaries By State
Below are salary ranges as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics by state. Median is the average salary, 10th percentile reflects a salary where 90% of employees make more and 90th percentile is the highest earners with only 10% of the employees making more.
|State||wdt_ID||10th Percentile Wage||Median Wage||90th Percentile Wage|
Wind Turbine Technician Job Outlook
Wind turbine technician jobs are plentiful! As more wind turbines are created – so are more jobs!
Most states are looking for ways to generate energy from more environment-friendly sources. The government continues to invest heavily in solar and wind farms to grow the use of electricity with wind power.
The outlook for wind turbine technicians is amazing with the demand projected to grow nearly 68% in the next ten years. That rate of growth is higher than that of 75% of careers.
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.
An expected 68% growth is expected for wind turbine technicians through 2030 making it an exceptional career opportunity!
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.
With wind turbine technician jobs seeing a steady rise in demand, the sooner you start your wind turbine technician training and get your 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.
Check out our other trade 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