This is a guest blog by Murlin Evans, a former PR professional who is becoming a wind turbine technician.
I can’t say I was never afraid that jumping ship mid-career into the burgeoning wind tech field would leave me scrambling to find a job. I’d had assurances from friends in the field, from global and, finally, national concern over climate change that is translating into incredible progress in wind farm development, but frankly, when it comes to guarantees, the energy sector historically has not been the place to look.
My decision to pivot from another decade as a communications desk jockey into the wind has never been a slam-dunk. It has however been punctuated with vital signs from above (God, Universe, fate) that have smothered my periodic flare-ups of fear and doubt about pulling up stakes in Austin and moving to Sweetwater, Texas – the wind energy capital of North America – to school on turbine technology at Texas State Technical College (TSTC).
Of course there was the Pope’s dramatic climate change encyclical in July – the same month I put in my notice at work and was counting pennies and drafting a no-income budget – calling the world to commit to ending fossil fuel consumption and committing to renewable energy. That’s a pronouncement even a non-Catholic can love.
Then there was the unveiling by the White House of Obama’s new Clean Energy Plan overheard on NPR as I careened in my U-haul through an “alien” dreamy turbine laden landscape from Austin to Sweetwater.
I quickly joined the student wind club – Winds of Texas – and was elected secretary, a position where I felt I could put some of my lingering digital communication skills to good use, make friends and help raise funds to attend the annual AWEA Conference in May.
Now, I’ve completed my climb test without suffering a stroke or falling off the turbine. Never mind my need for a bit more conditioning and strength training, the climb, the secret hatches, and the view from 300 feet sealed the deal for me.
“And this is where you’ll eat your lunch,” my instructor James Beall said to me as I climbed out the nacelle, tied myself off and rose to my feet. “Pretty sweet office view huh?”
Then today, Oct. 2, more kismet.
A friend forwarded me the coup de grâce, a CNBC article on the growing jobs in wind energy with Sweetwater, Texas as a dateline! Again, the signs are all pointing up.
According to the piece, which uses TSTC as a starting place, and our wind energy technology chair, Heath Ince, as a source, notes a Bureau of Labor Statistics report calling for wind tech jobs to increase by 24 percent from 2012 to 2022, well above the average growth rate for all jobs of over 11 percent.
The current assessment is that wind tech jobs are projected to increase from 3,200 in 2012 to 4,000 in 2022. Nice. Looks like I may have stepped into the right industry at the right time. Plus, I got to see some pictures of some of my colleagues doing cool stuff in classes I hope to be in next semester.
AWEA explains in the article “the cost of generating electricity from wind has been cut in half in the last five years” making producing electricity from wind almost as cheap as traditional sources like coal and gas. This, I hope, will continue wind energy expansion off shore and on through 2022 and beyond.
With that “high voltage” news, I’ve sent the resulting “current” through our Facebook page resistor, and found the news equally exciting from both the source and the Facebook feed.
The future’s so bright, I’ve got to wear tinted safety goggles! (Wind Tech humor) Now, back to DC Circuits homework.