Learning to fly: How I became a wind tech

At first, I didn’t have a clue – what did I want to do after high school?

I’ve always liked geology, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend four years obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Many geology-related jobs are also in the fossil fuel industry, something I wasn’t interested in, so I started looking elsewhere.

I did know that I loved the outdoors, and I knew I wanted to do something that made a positive impact. If you’re looking to make a positive impact on our planet, so that future generations can enjoy it as much as we do, what better career path to follow than renewable energy?

While examining my options, I took a tour of Mitchell Technical Institute in Mitchell, SD, and found out they have a Wind Turbine Technology Program. Courses focused on electricity, AC/DC theory, hydraulics, troubleshooting and other skills.

Zane and his colleagues at the Mitchell Technical Institute.

After the tour, I knew I wanted to enroll. The possibility of getting paid to see the country in an expanding career field really piqued my interest. It truly felt like a way to give myself a bright future.

A few weeks before school started, all of the students gathered to go through safety training and get certifications. OSHA 10 was the most important; it explained all the practices needed to ensure a safe work environment. From the beginning, we learned that safety is always of the utmost importance. First Aid and CPR were included, along with Wind Energy Rescue training.

Traveling the world while earning a good salary are great perks, but there are certain safety precautions turbine technicians need to know like the backs of our hands. My studies taught me important techniques, like how to rescue someone by using an emergency descent device if they cannot climb down a turbine alone. We also learned how to effectively use emergency descent gear for ourselves if an unusual situation occurred. Keeping safety at the top of the list and understanding these techniques helps prevent accidents from happening. We focus relentlessly on safety and hazard prevention in my job with Duke Energy Renewables.

Despite the physical nature of the job, it’s becoming more popular every year. With American wind energy’s growth, more wind techs are needed; the Department of Labor predicts the profession will grow by 108% in the coming years.

While most new employees are hired out of a wind tech school, some are hired based on their mechanical and electrical experience. With the number of wind farms expected to begin construction in the near future, there will be a lot of opportunities for people who would like to follow my career path.

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