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Turbine Technicians (not Cowboys)

If you've seen The Weather Channel's Turbine Cowboys you may have a somewhat exaggerated view of the life of a typical wind turbine technician. Call it a "Reality TV" effect, akin to the "CSI Effect." It's not that wind energy technology work is not exciting—we happen to train wind energy technicians, and we have a 20-foot climbing tower built right into our school. But we train our technicians, both male and female, how to be safe—not how to be cowboys.

At Ecotech Institute, our two-year associate's degree program is designed with employer input to prepare graduates with a solid foundation in the fundamentals of renewable energy while specializing in the generation and transmission of energy using wind power. Well-maintained facilities, modern labs, and small class sizes give students the opportunity to apply theory to the real world. Graduates may pursue careers in the workforce as wind energy technicians.

Recently Ecotech installed new Lab-Volt Nacelle Training Systems, which serve to establish essential technical and troubleshooting skills for wind energy technicians participating in our program. These systems are scaled-down replicas of commercial wind turbine nacelles and consist of a complete drivetrain, including the main shaft, a gearbox with a transparent side cover, speed sensors, a hydraulic brake and an asynchronous generator.

A Wind Energy Technology program might be right for you if you...

  • …love working outdoors.
  • …want to help develop cleaner, more sustainable energy.
  • …are interested in working on mechanical devices.
  • …enjoy math and science.
  • …like working with power tools to assemble, repair or install.

Not all of our students will wind up climbing wind turbine towers for a living, and few of them will dangle from nacelles hundreds of feet above the ground "inspecting blades" (although The Weather Channel does make this look cool). But when real needs arise, you can bet that our students have been trained in proper safety harnessing and climbing technology—as well as in all the relevant engineering technology—to get the job done safely and correctly. They've even been trained in how to properly rig and lower an injured co-worker, so you may see one of them in a future episode, perhaps rescuing one of the cowboys who has done something cowboy-ish.

Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at kyle.crider@ecotechinstitute.com