Most wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, learn their trade by attending a technical school. They are also trained by their employer after hiring.
Most windtechs learn their trade by attending technical schools. Many workers complete their coursework, although strong demand leads some employers to hire windtech interns before they graduate. Associate's degree programs for wind turbine service technicians usually take 2 years and are offered at 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 lab coursework, other areas of focus that reflect the various skill sets needed to do the job include the following:
High angle rescue, safety, first aid, and CPR training
Mechanical systems, including blade inspection and maintenance
Computers and programmable logic control systems
In addition to associate's degree coursework, windtechs typically receive more than 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 training specifically for journey electricians.
Other windtechs learn their trade through an 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 spent in apprenticeship may be reduced. Apprenticeships focus 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 at least a grade of “C”
Detail oriented. Windtechs must maintain records of all of the services that are performed. Turbine maintenance requires precise measurements, a strict order of operations, and numerous safety procedures.
Mechanical skills. Windtechs must understand and be able to maintain and repair all mechanical, hydraulic, braking, and electrical systems of a turbine.
Physical stamina. Windtechs must be able to climb to the tops of turbines, often with tools and equipment. Some tower ladders may be 260 feet high or taller.
Physical strength. Windtechs must lift heavy equipment, parts, and tools, some of which weigh in excess of 45 pounds.
Troubleshooting skills. Windtechs must diagnose and repair problems. When a turbine performs abnormally, technicians must determine the cause and make the necessary repairs.
Unafraid of heights and confined spaces. Windtechs repair turbines that are often at least 260 feet high, and they must work in confined spaces in order to access mechanical components of the turbine.