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Q&A with Ecotech Institute graduate Lawrence Smith

Our planet doesn't have unlimited resources, but for a long time people acted like it did. Luckily, the renewable energy field is finding ways to make use of sustainable resources. Working in the renewable energy field makes a huge difference for the environment, because these jobs focus on addressing climate change and reversing the resource depletion that has already been done. Lawrence Smith wanted to change his career and make a difference in the world, so he enrolled in the Wind Energy Technology program at Ecotech Institute. Now he now works for NextEra Energy as a Wind Technician II. Keep reading to learn more about his experiences in the field.

Why are you passionate about renewable energy? What sparked your interest in this field?

After working in the petroleum industry in several aspects for over twenty-five years, I was ready for a change but wasn't sure just what. I wanted to get into a field that was green, and as I drove across the U.S. hauling freight, I would see wind turbines going up. I thought wind energy would be a unique career for me to get into, except I did not know where to start. My wife had seen a commercial for the Ecotech Institute and told me about it. When I went in to talk to an enrollment counselor they sold me on their passion, and I committed myself to a complete career change.

What's your current position with NextEra Energy? What are some of the things you do?

Right now I'm a Wind Tech II and a high voltage technician in training. Some of my daily tasks include troubleshooting downed turbines, maintenance, training on the forklift, maintaining turbine roads and assisting with various tasks as needed.

What is your favorite part about working in the renewable energy field?

My favorite part of working in the renewable field is knowing that I am doing my part in helping reduce greenhouse gases.

Why did you decide to go back to Ecotech Institute and pursue a second degree?

I knew I wanted to further my career in the high voltage field, so I decided to return to Ecotech Institute and enroll in the Electrical Engineering Technology program. My employer was supportive of me continuing my education, and offered tuition reimbursement.

Why did you want to work on the high voltage side of the wind farm? How is that different than being a wind technician?

When I first started with NextEra we had to complete some work on our transmission lines for Xcel Energy. I was able to assist in the substation in completing the wiring of them. From then on I knew I wanted to work in high voltage. As a wind technician my day-to-day tasks include troubleshooting downed turbines, preventive maintenance and repairing turbines. As a high voltage technician, I am going to be more involved in transmission and supply. I'll work closely with Xcel Energy to ensure the site is sending power to the grid properly.

What advice can you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in the renewable energy field?

As far as the wind energy field, I would say the main thing you need to learn is how to read schematics and to use a Digital Multi-meter. These two tools are the main things I use on a daily basis at work.