The AWEA Recently announced that in November of 2015, the United States reached the 70 gigawatts production milestone for the first time in its history. This is great news for an industry that had plateaued over the last couple years with the uncertainty created by the government and clean energy tax credits. The 50 and 60 gigawatt levels were achieved back in 2012. 2013 proved to be slower year for new wind energy projects, but that has changed in 2014, with over 8.3 billion dollars invested.
Better Times Ahead
The momentum for 2015 and beyond is increasing for many reasons. The first is the extensions of the Production Tax Credit and alternate Investment Tax Credit by Congress, which gives stability and predictability to the industry through at least 2019. These credits make new wind energy projects more affordable, encouraging investment.
Another big reason is that wind energy prices have reached all time lows. In order to be competitive in the energy market, wind energy has to make financial sense for the organizations buying and investing in energy. With wind energy prices the lowest they have ever been, they are very competitive economically on the market.
More Progress to be Made
While 70 gigawatts of energy production is a great milestone for a budding industry, there is still a long way to go before wind energy is a viable alternative for U.S. residents. At this point, energy produced by wind makes up only 5% of total U.S. energy consumption – meaning there is still great long-term potential for increases in wind energy production.
If you are considering a career as a Wind Turbine Technician, you are in luck, because this career path is projected to be the fastest growing job through 2024.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number Wind Turbine Technician jobs will more than double over the next 8-10 years:
There are only about 4,400 such workers now, and the federal agency expects the jobs to increase 108 percent, to 9,200 workers.
The growth is largely due to the expansion of wind energy through new installations of wind turbines, but also the ongoing maintenance needed for these machines as they are installed.
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.
Continue reading A Different Kind of Wind Energy Job
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.
Continue reading A Day in the Life of a Wind Turbine Technician