Anyone who knows me knows that I love statistics. Statistics are cold, hard, empirical facts that cannot be disputed. Debates and discussions begin with opinions, but are settled with facts. It is even better when statistics are compiled and presented in a way that make them easy to understand and get a point across quickly. This makes statistics more accessible to those of us who are, let’s say….less mathematically inclined. Recently the United States Department of Energy created a suite of graphics that very quickly and succinctly outline the current state of the wind energy industry in America. Take a look for yourself and enjoy!
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.
Nobody said being a wind turbine technician was easy. First, there is the training program you must go through. Training can be hard because of the subject matter. A traditional power plant will have maintenance technicians, mechanics, electrical technicians, instrument technicians, and several other job titles specific to a certain function. With a wind turbine technician, all of that knowledge is rolled into one job description.
It can also be physically hard. Have you ever climbed a 26 story ladder? If you become a wind turbine technician you will. Do you deal well with heights? You absolutely cannot have a fear of heights in this job. Still, if you can overcome all of these challenges, a very lucrative career is waiting for you. Let’s take a look at an average day in the life of a wind turbine technician.
Today the Obama administration announced an agreement that would speed up approval and help expedite the construction of offshore wind turbines across the Great Lakes region. This new, faster regulatory review aims to quicken the pace of offshore wind farm development without sacrificing safety and environmental concerns, which are always of the utmost importance when new wind farm locations are assessed. Five of the states surrounding the Great Lakes region have already signed the agreement – Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania. The other states in the region – Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin – have not signed the agreement but still could at a later time.
The agreement is not a simple one. More than ten federal agencies are involved, including the Pentagon, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Any new construction would also have to be approved by the federal government and the state in which the wind turbine resides, since states own the land beneath the Great Lakes up to the international border with Canada. This deal is not unprecedented, however. A similar deal was struck to facilitate construction of offshore wind turbines across the Atlantic coast, so there is good reason to believe these Great Lakes projects will happen at some point.