How to Become a Wind Turbine Technician
Offshore turbines takes advantage of consistent wind.
Most wind turbine service technicians (windtechs) learn their trade by attending a technical school. After completing a 2-year technical program, employers usually provide on-the-job training, typically lasting over 12 months.
Most windtechs learn their trade by attending technical schools. Associate’s degree programs for wind turbine service technicians usually take 2 years and are offered at vocational–technical schools and community colleges.
Many technical schools have onsite wind turbines that students can work on as part of their studies. In addition to practical coursework, other areas of focus that reflect the various skill sets needed to do the job include the following:
- Safety/first aid/CPR training
- Electrical maintenance
- Hydraulic maintenance
- Braking systems
- Mechanical systems, including blade inspection and maintenance
- Computers and programmable logic control systems
- Physical fitness
In addition to an associate’s degree, windtechs typically receive over 12 months of on-the-job training related to the specific wind turbines they will maintain and service. Part of this training is manufacturer training. Other training may include an internship with a wind turbine servicing contractor.
Some windtechs are former electricians. Regardless of experience, all candidates must complete wind turbine training in addition to any other construction training they may already have. For example, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers offers intensive courses that provide wind turbine-related training specifically for journey electricians.
Other windtechs learn their trade through a windtech apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. With prior experience or training, the time may be shortened to 1 year. Apprentice training focuses on safety, first aid, and CPR training; electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical systems maintenance; braking systems; and computers and programmable logic control systems.
Unions and individual contractors offer apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications for workers to enter an apprenticeship program are the following:
- Minimum age of 18
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Physically and mentally able to do the job
- One year of high school or equivalent algebra with a grade of at least a “C”
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not mandatory, certification can demonstrate a base level of knowledge and professionalism. The Electronics Technicians Association International (ETAI) offers certification for small wind tower installation. The ETAI will soon have certification for those interested in large commercial wind tower installation.
Mechanical skills. Windtechs must understand and be able to maintain and repair all mechanical, hydraulic, braking, and electrical systems of a turbine.
Physical stamina. Service technicians must be able to climb high, often with tools and equipment, to reach the turbines. Some tower ladders may be 260 feet high or taller.
Physical strength. Windtechs must lift and climb with heavy equipment and parts and tools. Some weigh in excess of 45 pounds.
Troubleshooting skills. Windtechs must diagnose and repair problems. When a turbine stops generating electricity, technicians must determine the cause and then make the necessary repairs.
Unafraid of heights and confined spaces. Service technicians often must repair turbines that are at least 260 feet high. In addition, technicians must work in confined spaces in order to access mechanical components of the turbine.