This video adapted from ATETV features students and faculty in the Wind Energy Technology program at Laramie County Community College. It explains some of the motivations students had for entering the program, such as wanting to work outdoors, scale towers, and contribute renewable energy field. Students describe the coursework—a mix of hands-on labs, lectures, and computer classes—and explain that knowing how wind turbines are put together and safe climbing techniques are both important aspects of working in this field.
The wind energy field offers a wide variety of career opportunities for technology professionals who love to work outdoors. As the worldwide push for more environmentally friendly energy sources gains strength, technical schools and community colleges are training the workers who will build and maintain the wind turbines that will help supply that energy.
While some jobs in wind energy require an engineering background, many others offer good opportunities for individuals who may lack an engineering degree but have enthusiasm and transferable job skills. For example, as the number of wind farms increases, so does the need for more turbines. This means jobs not only for engineers who can design efficient and low-cost turbine blades and control systems, but also for assembly technicians, plant managers, and quality assurance personnel, whose skills can be transferred from other manufacturing settings.
The wind industry offers additional opportunities in the service sector. Field technicians are needed to assist in the construction of wind farms and to climb wind turbine towers to inspect and maintain equipment. Demand is also rising for positions in wind resource assessment— analyzing wind patterns and predicting how much energy a wind farm at a particular location will be likely to produce; forecasting—using tools including Doppler radar to gauge wind speeds and patterns at various altitudes; and storage technologies—the means to store wind energy as electricity before it gets fed to a utility grid and used.
Several degree programs train students to work in wind energy. Common among them are fundamentals in mechanical systems, electric motors, and wind turbine siting—choosing a proper site for a wind turbine or farm. Laramie County Community College (the program featured in this video) offers two comprehensive courses of study: one an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) Degree in Wind Energy, and the other an Associate of Science (A.S.) Degree in Wind Energy. Both programs provide the industrial maintenance courses, specialized wind power maintenance skills courses, and on-the-job experience that the industry needs. Both programs also emphasize as much hands-on training as possible. The school's wind energy lab features a climb-safety and tower-rescue simulator, and an operational nacelle—the shell that encloses the gear box, generator, blade hub, and other engine parts. The programs differ in that the general education course credits earned in the A.S. program are more likely to be accepted if a student moves on to a four-year university.
Regardless of the program they enter, people interested in wind energy careers must possess a strong background in algebra. Industry professionals apply math, in addition to science and computer skills, on a daily basis, so it’s important to enroll in these courses while attending a technical college.
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