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Oswego Career Ladders - Wind Power

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Wind Power

People have been using energy from the Wind for hundreds of years. Windmills have been used for pumping water or grinding grain. And today, the windmill's modern equivalent--a wind turbine--can use the wind's energy to generate electricity. A single, small- or intermediate-sized wind turbine can generate enough electricity to power a house or farm, while a number of large utility-scale wind turbines can form wind plants or wind farms that generate enough electricity for tens of thousands of homes.

As the cost of generating electricity from wind power continiues to fall, many electricity providers are starting to view wind as an attractive, renewable alternative to fossil fuels (such as coal and natural gas), which are not renewable. The wind industry is the fastest growing source of electricity-generation. Although Europe has experience the majority of growth in the wind industry, total capacity in the United States reached 2,500 MW in December 1999. In 2005 alone, over 2,400 megawatts (MW) or over $3 billion worth of new generating equipment was installed in 22 states, bringing the industry's total generating capacity to 9,149 MW enough to serve the equivalent of 2.3 million homes.

Jobs in Wind Power
The wind industry employs both professional and skilled workers in a number of different capacities. New wind projects require people with business, meteorological, and engineering experience to plan and build projects. Meteorologists help engineers identify appropriate sites with suitable wind conditions. Engineers then design the wind plant, working with the utility companies and communities. Construction workers are needed to build the wind plant, and mechanical and electrical technicians, called "windsmiths," are required to operate and maintain the wind turbines.

Both industry and research laboratories constantly try to improve the design and efficiency of wind turbines. These research and development (R&D) groups generally employ mechanical, electrical, and aeronautical engineers with advanced degrees, as well as experienced technicians. However, others with technical backrounds may also find jobs.

High School Plus Training

Construction Worker - Wind energy projects create new jobs in rural communities in manufacturing, transportation, and project construction. Local labor is often used for project construction like building roads and erecting turbines. Once the projects are complete, jobs are created in the operation and maintenance of the projects. Wind projects can help turn the economy around in depressed rural areas. At the height of construction subcontractors employ nearly 400 workers providing a boost to local businesses. Local companies that provided services also benefited. Wind farms also pay rent to farmers who agree to have turbines erected on their property. Average wage for construction laborers $18/hr. Average wage for people in the skill trades $30/hr.

Two Years of Education or an Associates Degree

Mechanical Electrical Technicians - Windsmith - A windsmith is a person who is involved in the business of windmill construction and erection. A windsmith performs day-to-day operations and maintenance duties on wind turbine facilities, works closely with other individuals to monitor, track performance, and respond to wind turbine faults, aids in the development and management of new wind turbine projects, works closely with and coordinates operational activities with utility companies and other wind industry companies. Average salary $48,000/yr.

Bachelors Degree or Higher

Meteorologist - Helps engineers identify appropriate sites with suitable wind conditions. Average salary $79,000/yr.

Electrical Engineer - Provides the theoretical insight and practical experience to shape wind power’s impact on power systems. Average salary $80,000/yr.

Mechanical Engineer - Develops innovative systems to improve efficiency and reduce costs in technologies which are already deployed commercially. Average starting salary $50,000/yr for BS, $60,000/yr for MS, and $70,000/yr for Ph.Ds.

Aeronautical Engineer - Works on improving the aerodynamic performance and durability of wind turbine rotors and airfoil designs. For example, an aeronautical engineer may work on designing rotors that are least affected by insect debris. Average salary $61,000/yr for BS, $72,000/yr for MS, $87,000/yr for Ph.Ds.

* All wages and salaries based on 2009 statistics.

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