Home Tech It takes guts, not college, to fix wind turbines for a living

It takes guts, not college, to fix wind turbines for a living

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It takes guts, not college, to fix wind turbines for a living

You may think they are majestic. You may think they are an eyesore. No matter what you think about wind turbines, there will be many more of them in the coming years. And someone will have to keep each of them spinning. In fact, it is estimated that the wind turbine repair technician is one of the fastest growing jobs in the US this decade, with at least 5,000 new positions by 2032. An onshore wind veteran who’s been doing the job for 13 years tells WIRED what it’s like.

The first is the first: If you hate heights, being a wind turbine technician is probably not the career for you. Sure, we’ve had people who aren’t comfortable with heights be successful at work. But I can safely say that you are climbing 300 feet a day. (Sometimes literally: older wind farms have turbines that can be climbed by ladders, although most places now use an elevator or trolley system.)

A mechanical or electrical base is useful. I got a job with a builder right out of high school and worked until the real estate market crashed around 2008. That’s when I decided to enroll in a one-year vocational program to train in power generation, with a big focus on wind energy. . I was hired right out of school and basically traveled around the United States as a wind technician. Around that time, there was a big push for wind generation. And really, that momentum hasn’t stopped. We’re in a world right now where we’re just trying to keep up. I really want to consolidate renewable energy as the main means of energy generation in the future. Some of my best days at work have been when I’m the first to touch some new technology, discover it, and find answers before anyone else.

It’s manual work, right? It’s a 7 to 3, 7 to 5, five days a week. Must accept on-call duties and overtime during the weekend. So you are in the field, you are in the elements. That is the biggest challenge. In the Midwest, I go from one extreme to the other: the hot, humid summer months and then the freezing months. You dress for the weather. Almost every company I’ve worked for gives you an allowance for equipment like balaclavas, hand warmers, foot warmers, dungarees and thick jackets.

On a typical day, you go in and assess the state of the wind farm with your team. (He usually works in teams of two or three people and spends more time with them than with his own family.) If a turbine has a problem and is not working, you need to fix it first. However, most of the time you’re out there just doing routine maintenance. Do you know that your car needs an oil change, tire rotation, air filter change? The same applies to wind turbines. We have to grease the bearings. We tighten all the screws and make sure nothing has come loose. We change the oil and clean the turbine. If a farm has 100 turbines, say, then it will have to perform 200 maintenance checks that year. A check usually takes a whole day and you do it four or five days in a row. The work can become monotonous. It is also labor intensive. If something like a gearbox or generator fails, those are big, heavy components; Those can be the hardest days.

The work has improved over the years. Companies are starting to make the turbine fit the technician. So, you know, you don’t have to maneuver your body in a way that’s unnatural. Or they make it easier to access things from a ladder so you don’t put yourself in a compromising position. The task is not just to put the turbines into operation. It’s about doing that and coming home the same way you came to work.

You can work as an owner-operator, where you show up at the same location every day, or you can be a traveling wind technician. There are contracting companies that have people doing anything from component repair to major overhaul projects.

For an owner-operator in the US, you can expect between $25 and $50 per hour. If you’ve worked more than five years in the industry and are very proficient at your craft, you can probably expect to earn between $35 and $40. If you’re in the union (I’m in the American Public Service Workers Union), It costs between $50 and $65 an hour. I have worked in both union and non-union jobs.

I have 13 years in this field, my colleague has 10, and we are considered veterans, which is not typical in most industries. There is still this sense of newness and there seems to be many opportunities for someone who wants to make a career for themselves. You know, the sky really is the limit.

—Told to Caitlin Kelly

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