Wind Turbine Technicians

Summary

wind turbine technicians image
Wind turbine technicians often work at great heights.
Quick Facts: Wind Turbine Technicians
2014 Median Pay $48,800 per year
$23.46 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Some college, no degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 4,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 108% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 4,800

What Wind Turbine Technicians Do

Wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.

Work Environment

Wind turbine service technicians generally work outdoors, in confined spaces, and often at great heights. Although the majority of windtechs work full time, they may also be on call to handle emergencies during evenings and weekends.

How to Become a Wind Turbine Technician

Most wind turbine service technicians learn their trade by attending a technical school. They are also trained by their employer after hiring.

Pay

The median annual wage for wind turbine technicians was $48,800 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of wind turbine service technicians is projected to grow 108 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Because wind electricity generation is expected to grow over the coming decade, additional technicians will be needed to install and maintain new turbines. Job prospects should be excellent for qualified candidates.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for wind turbine technicians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of wind turbine technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about wind turbine technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Wind Turbine Technicians Do

wind turbine technicians image
Wind turbine technicians often monitor turbines from the ground.

Wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.

Duties

Wind turbine service technicians typically do the following:

  • Inspect the exterior and physical integrity of towers
  • Climb towers to inspect or repair wind turbine equipment
  • Perform routine maintenance on wind turbines
  • Test and troubleshoot electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic components and systems
  • Replace worn or malfunctioning components
  • Collect turbine data for testing or research and analysis
  • Service underground transmission systems, wind field substations, or fiber optic sensing and control systems

Wind turbines are large mechanical devices that convert wind energy into electricity. They are located in areas where there is consistent wind. The turbine is made up of three major components: a tower, three blades, and a nacelle, which is composed of an outer case, generator, gearbox, and brakes. Wind turbine service technicians install and repair the various components of these structures.

Although some windtechs are involved in building new wind turbines, most of their work is in maintaining them, particularly the nacelles, which contain the equipment that generates electricity.

Maintenance schedules are largely determined by a turbine’s hours in operation, but can also vary by manufacturer. Turbines are monitored electronically from a central office, 24 hours a day. When a problem is detected, windtechs travel to the worksite and make the repairs. Most manufacturers recommend annual maintenance, which includes inspecting components and lubricating parts. For turbines that operate year round, routine maintenance may occur one to three times a year.

Windtechs use safety harnesses and a variety of hand and power tools to do their work. They also use computers to diagnose electrical malfunctions. Most turbine monitoring equipment is located in the nacelle, which can be accessed both on- and offsite.

Work Environment

wind turbine technicians image
Wind turbine technicians visually inspect wind turbines for damage.

Wind turbine technicians held about 4,400 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most wind turbine technicians were as follows:

Electric power generation, transmission and distribution 24%
Commercial and industrial machinery and equipment (except automotive and electronic) repair and maintenance 23
Utility system construction 23

Windtechs generally work outdoors, often at great heights and with a partner. For example, when repairing blades, windtechs rappel—or descend by sliding down a rope—from the nacelle to the section of the blade that needs servicing. To reach the mechanical equipment, workers must climb ladders—sometimes more than 260 feet tall—while wearing a fall protection harness and carrying tools. When maintaining mechanical systems, windtechs work in the confined space of the nacelle.

Many wind farms are located away from urban areas, which means that windtechs are often their own first responders in the event of an accident.

For major service or repairs, additional windtechs and other specialists, such as electricians, may be needed to complete the job quickly.

Work Schedules

Although the majority of windtechs work full time, they may also be on call to handle emergencies during evenings and weekends.

When a wind turbine is not functioning, technicians must find the problem and make the necessary repairs as quickly as possible.

Windtechs often travel to rural areas, where many wind farms are located.

How to Become a Wind Turbine Technician

wind turbine technicians image
Wind turbine technicians may need additional training to service offshore turbines.

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.

Education

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
  • Electrical maintenance
  • Hydraulic maintenance
  • Braking systems
  • Mechanical systems, including blade inspection and maintenance
  • Computers and programmable logic control systems

Training

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”

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not mandatory, certification can demonstrate a basic level of knowledge and professionalism. The Electronics Technicians Association, International offers certification for those who install small wind towers, such as backyard turbines.

Important Qualities

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.

Pay

Wind Turbine Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2014

Wind turbine service technicians

$48,800

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

$42,110

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for wind turbine technicians was $48,800 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,350, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,770.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for wind turbine technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Electric power generation, transmission and distribution $53,470
Commercial and industrial machinery and equipment (except automotive and electronic) repair and maintenance 49,000
Utility system construction 45,500

Apprentices’ wages start at 60 percent of a fully trained windtech’s wages. Apprentices receive pay increases as they learn to do more.

The majority of windtechs work full time, and they may also be on call to handle emergencies during evenings and weekends.

When a wind turbine is not functioning, technicians must find the problem and make the necessary repairs as quickly as possible.

Windtechs often travel to rural areas, where many wind farms are located.

Job Outlook

Wind Turbine Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Wind turbine service technicians

108%

Total, all occupations

7%

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

6%

 

Employment of wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, is projected to grow 108 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 4,800 new jobs over the 10-year period.

Development of taller towers with larger blades has reduced the cost of wind power generation, making it more competitive with coal, natural gas, and other forms of power generation. As additional wind turbines are erected, more windtechs will be needed to install and maintain turbines.

The most consistent winds are found offshore, and several offshore wind projects are currently being explored. If approved and developed, many more technicians will be needed.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for qualified windtechs are expected to be excellent. The number of wind turbines being installed is increasing, which should result in continuing demand for windtechs. There is also a shortage of qualified workers in some areas. Because many people prefer not to work in confined spaces or at great heights, competition for jobs is lessened.

Job opportunities vary by individual state. Wind farms are generally more prevalent in the Great Plains, the Midwest, and along coasts, and windtechs will likely find more job opportunities in these areas.

Employment projections data for wind turbine technicians, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Wind turbine service technicians

49-9081 4,400 9,200 108 4,800 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of wind turbine technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers install or repair a variety of electrical equipment in telecommunications, transportation, utilities, and other industries.

Postsecondary nondegree award $53,900
Electricians

Electricians

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

High school diploma or equivalent $51,110
Elevator installers and repairers

Elevator Installers and Repairers

Elevator installers and repairers install, fix, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts.

High school diploma or equivalent $78,620
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration and mechanics and installers

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—often called heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians—work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings.

Postsecondary nondegree award $44,630
Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers

Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights

Industrial machinery mechanics and machinery maintenance workers maintain and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery, such as conveying systems, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Millwrights install, dismantle, repair, reassemble, and move machinery in factories, power plants, and construction sites.

High school diploma or equivalent $47,450
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry liquids or gases to, from, and within businesses, homes, and factories.

High school diploma or equivalent $50,660

Contacts for More Information

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities in this trade, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local electrical contractors or firms that employ windtechs, or local union-management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s ApprenticeshipUSA program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about union apprenticeship and training programs for electricians, visit

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

For more information about other educational opportunities and certification, visit

American Wind Energy Association

Electronics Technicians Association, International

O*NET

Wind Turbine Service Technicians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Wind Turbine Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/wind-turbine-technicians.htm (visited February 06, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015