It’s no secret that clean energy is one of the fastest growing industries right now. More than 415,000 Americans already work in clean energy across all 50 states, and that number is set to grow substantially over the next decade. The Biden Administration and U.S. Congress have proposed policies that could enable the United States to reach up to 70% clean energy generation by 2030. These policies would create an additional 500,000 – 600,000 jobs across several occupations – especially in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
In 2010, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) reported that there are 807,000 women that work in construction in the United States. Skilled job roles are becoming gender neutral and the U.S. Department of Labor is promoting and fostering a culture of diversity. Yet the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reported that female wind technicians only made up 1% of their workforce in 2020. How can the fastest growing industry in the United States still be so far behind?
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) 32% of workers in the environmental industry are women. This is an improvement, but there’s still work to be done. Industry trade associations like ACP work very closely with hundreds of clean energy companies and their leadership daily and this collaboration among the industry gives ACP and fellow member companies the opportunity to be a part of a larger shift in the hiring, retention, and promotion of women throughout our clean power industry.
Female technicians make up 2% of the workforce at Deutsche Windtechnik U.S. currently. It’s clear the clean energy industry has work to do to promote gender diversity, and we, as an industry is committed to doing that important work. The American Clean Power Association (ACP) and our industry at large is dedicated to the development of the renewable energy workforce. Michele Mihelic, Senior Director of Asset Management and Standard Development at ACP says that the industry has a dedicated workforce development committee that is focused on developing career pathways to ensure there are numerous successful opportunities for diverse and qualified candidates.
Katie Lopez is one of the women who makes up Deutsche Windtechnik USA’s wind technician workforce. Originally from Marksville, LA, Katie moved to Oklahoma in 2010 and dreamed of becoming an actress. But after driving by fields blanketed in wind turbines each day, she was intrigued by the industry.
“I was so curious how anyone could actually climb to the top of a turbine. So, I decided to research the industry and sign up to become a certified wind turbine technician.”
The transition wasn’t without its obstacles. In addition to making a major career change, Katie had to overcome her fear of heights, “The first time I climbed to the top, I could barely stand up straight,” she recalled. Now, she says that admiring the view from the top is one of her favorite parts of being a technician.
Katie as a model. The stepping stone to becoming an actress. (L); Katie working on-site with her colleagues Joe (Service Technician) and Melf (CEO). (R)
Soon after joining Deutsche Windtechnik in October 2020, Katie was recognized for her curiosity and passion for learning. Less than six months into her role as a Service Technician, she transitioned into a new role as a Technical Trainer. Today, Katie is valued and respected for her expertise in developing the in-house training program for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and NEG Micon. Her passion for teaching is remarkable and inspiring.
When asked about advice for women wanting to join the industry, where the percentage of women seen in technical roles are so low, Katie’s response was,
“Wind energy is growing so quickly. We need all the help we can get. Being a wind tech should be seen as a job that’s open to everyone. If you show up and work hard, that’s all that matters.”
Katie’s unique career path is just one great example of the huge opportunity that renewable energy holds for women looking to advance in some of the fastest growing careers in America. With the potential to expand to over 1 million jobs by 2030, the clean energy industry will provide good paying jobs for Americans across the country for years to come.
This is a guest blog post from ACP Member Deutsche Windtechnik. To learn more information on how to become an ACP member, please visit our membership page.