Wind Turbine Technicians
Overview | Related Occupations | Outlook | Helpful High School Courses | Preparation | Related Educational Programs | Additional Sources of Information | Back to Green Careers
Wind turbine technicians assemble, maintain, and repair wind turbines used in energy generation.
Wind farms have several wind turbines clustered together. Wind turbines capture wind energy and convert it to electricity for use by homeowners and businesses. Wind turbines are also called wind generators, wind power units, wind energy converters, or aero generators. While nature provides the wind, it's humans that install and maintain the turbines.
There are currently an estimated 25,000 wind turbines in use throughout the world. Growing demand for wind energy has created the need for skilled workers who can keep giant wind turbine machines running. These workers are called wind turbine technicians. Wind turbine technicians are also called wind farm technicians. They play a key role in ensuring the safety and service of wind turbine units. Technicians perform preventative maintenance. When there is a problem, they do mechanical and electrical troubleshooting and repairs.
Each turbine tower undergoes maintenance periodically. During this checkup, technicians check moving parts and repair and replace malfunctioning parts and equipment. Some tasks are simple, such as changing filters and analyzing oil. Others are more complex, such as maintaining electrical motors, hydraulics, transmissions, and drives. Maintaining the turbines also involves checking computers. There is a large computer inside the base of the support tower and the one at the top of the tower. Technicians climb a series of ladders to reach the top of the tower. Wind turbine towers reach heights of 200 feet or more and technicians must carry their equipment up with them. You must be in good shape and be comfortable working at heights to perform this job.
Once at the top, technicians inspect both the outside and inside of the turbine. Technicians inspect the inside of the turbine by entering the nacelle, which is the box that holds the gears, motor, and generator. Much of the regular maintenance that technicians perform requires them to squeeze down into the "hole" or bottom of the nacelle. They use rags and cleanser to clean up oil and grease that has dripped off of the equipment. Even though the parts used to operate the turbine are very large, they are also very delicate and could fail if not kept very clean. While in the nacelle, technicians also change fluid filters in the gearbox, which is the part that spins the generator. If there is a problem with the blades, technicians must climb out of the nacelle, over the blades, and into the cone. Technicians also inspect the outside of the turbine by climbing on top of it. They make sure all of the instruments are secure and the fiberglass top is in working order and not damaged. Teamwork is important for technicians since usually two or more work together and safety and a smooth-running work environment are critical.
There are currently an estimated 25,000 wind turbines in use throughout the world. Due to the rapidly growing number of wind farms, many technicians travel throughout the U.S to work at these farms. Some positions require international travel.
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
- Electric Motor Repairers
- Industrial Electronics Repairers
- Industrial Machinery Mechanics
Hawaii Career Pathways:
- Industrial & Engineering Technology
Analysts expect that the wind-power industry will continue to grow rapidly. This is due to government incentives and increased consumer interest.
Helpful High School Courses
In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from our state's graduation requirements. Click here for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2013 or later. If you attend a private school, check with your school counselor for graduation requirements. Click here for for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2011 or 2012. Click here for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2013 or later. If you attend a private school, check with your school counselor for graduation requirements.
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this occupation include:
- Computer Science
- Equipment Maintenance and Repair
- Introduction to Mechanics
- Physical Science
The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.
You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.
Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Click here for examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.
To work as a wind turbine technician, you must:
- have a high school diploma or GED;
- have work experience in a related occupation or have a combination of education and experience.
Education after high school
A college degree is not required to become a wind turbine technician. However, many technicians have an associate degree or a certificate from a training program. A background and understanding of mechanical and electrical principles are good preparation.
A small number of colleges and universities offer training or continuing education programs in wind energy. A list of training programs within the United States is available at: http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/schools_training.asp
Be careful when enrolling in programs in this area. Because this is an emerging area of study, the industry does not yet have training requirements. As a result, the quality and depth of information provided by programs vary widely. You should investigate the schools you are interested in.
Graduates of certificate programs generally need on-the-job training to become wind turbine technicians. The length of training varies by employer and your skills.
Related Educational Programs
- Aviation Maintenance Technology
- Electrical/Electronics Technologies
- Engineering Technologies
- Precision Metalworking
- Small Engine Mechanics and Repair Technology
Additional Sources of Information
- "Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future" ($19.95 paper cover, p. 368)
By Jim Cassio and Alice Rush, MA, RPCC, MCC
Publication date: 2009
New Society Publishers
Career Information Available on the Internet
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