A Different Kind of Wind Energy Job

When most people think about jobs in wind energy, they think of technicians and engineers, hundreds of feet in the air working on giant windmills.  While these types of jobs are out there and are certainly a very good career option, there are other ways to enter the field of wind energy without climbing  these gigantic turbines.  One of those ways is to work in a wind turbine monitoring station.  These stations are often called Remote Operations Centers (ROCs for short), and they are the brains behind these giant wind farms.

In a typical ROC, you will find dozens of technicians monitoring the data output from thousands of wind turbines.  This data is collected real-time, and is used to analyze everything going on with each individual turbine.  The overall goals of the ROC are twofold.  The first is to keep wind turbines running efficiently as possible, so that the investment made into the turbine is maximized, along with the amount of power generated.  The second is to identify any potential issues with the turbines before they become more significant, which can result in an outage.  Companies like General Electric, which built about half of the turbines in the United States today, do everything they can to keep their turbine fleet at 98% capacity or higher.  Preventing breakdowns before they happen is a huge part of this.

General Electric has monitoring these machines down to a science.  They have taken the knowledge they have from monitoring fleets in their other businesses, such as gas engines and jet engines, and applied it to this new technology.  Any issues identified by the ROC are usually resolved in ten minutes or less, either by someone at the ROC itself, or by dispatching a field technician to make a change.  Monitoring these machines can be done from many thousands of miles away, and can be done down to the individual turbine, and even the individual components within the turbine:

“Here’s a screenshot of PulsePOINT software that shows information on the temperature of the battery boxes in two different wind turbines on a wind farm. The blue line shows a turbine running at a significantly higher temperature than another turbine in the fleet, as well as the data after the issue was corrected by a field technician.”

This level of monitoring helps General Electric and similar companies keep wind turbines running at their optimized levels.  General Electric estimates that the proactive monitoring done by the ROCs save about 15,000 to 20,000 dollars per turbine, per year by preventing turbines from running at less than their full capacity.

Does working in a Remote Operations Center sound interesting to you?  Want to get into the field of wind energy without climbing the turbines?  Then perhaps a job in turbine monitoring is for you.  With the proper training, any job in this growing industry is achievable!

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One thought on “A Different Kind of Wind Energy Job”

  1. Very much dependent on the sipeifcc engineering of the wind turbine. You are losing energy to friction, so the mechanics of the device are very important. All of that is not a consideration for fossil fuels becase the earth has done most of the conversion already by using gravity (i.e., pressure), which is basically infinitely available. If you are thinking not in terms of energy cost, but financail cost, then you really need to think about the supply chain. A single high-effeicncy wind turbine might cost $5MM to build, but there is operational cost, land cost, distribution and storage costs. All of that is baked into the end user price of a gallon of processed fossil fuels. I don’t know the sipeifcc numbers, but I do know that none of the wind farms would be profitable without the government subsidies that they are getting ATM.That chart of 1996 California date someone posted showing that wind is the lowest cost seems highly suspect to me at a minimum it is looking at regulatory compliance costs for things like nuclear and fossil feuls, not just the cost of generating and delivering the energy. That is the problem with data “sound bites”, they are a little to easy to quote without thinking about them.

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