Ecotech Institute’s Auston Van Slyke Agrees: U.S. Offshore Wind Energy “Gold Rush” is Under Way
The world is on the cusp of a renewable energy revolution. Investments in renewable energy are at an all-time-high, and the majority of countries now have policies that support renewable energy in one way or another.
Fortune recently published an article shedding light on 23 offshore wind energy generation projects along the northeast coast of the United States that are currently on the drawing board. The article, “Wind Power Takes to the Seas,” written by Fortune’s senior editor-at-large Brian Dumaine, discusses an upcoming drastic increase in the nation’s wind energy generation capacity as the result of these massive projects.
According to Dumaine, when complete, these offshore wind turbines will be able to generate the equivalent of about 16 nuclear power plants.
“If offshore wind can follow such a trajectory, that would make it a multibillion-dollar industry and create as many as 600,000 jobs during the next few decades,” Dumaine says.
Ecotech Institute’s resident wind energy expert and program director for Wind Energy Technology Auston Van Slyke recently shared his insights into the subject.
“It’s quite an amazing announcement,” Van Slyke says. “Offshore wind is a very interesting subject; partly, because it puts the jobs and technology closer to major cities than wind farms have been able to do before.”
Van Slyke notes that the upcoming boom in offshore wind along the northeast coast is poised to impact the industry nationwide:
“The wind industry in the United States is largely built on the land-based farms in the Midwest. Transitioning into such a large offshore industry is going to change which companies are involved. The companies specializing in land-based turbines don’t have the offshore experience. This is going to create collaboration that has never existed previously.”
Van Slyke predicts that the upcoming offshore wind “gold rush” will also have a significant effect on the local wind industry in Colorado. He notes that more wind turbines are manufactured in Colorado than in many other states, and the upcoming wind energy boom is going to bring even more jobs and money to the local economy.
He notes that wind energy is already America’s top source of renewable energy, and Colorado is currently 10th in the nation in the amount of electricity generated from wind turbines.
However, here Van Slyke points to an important issue:
“Wind turbine technician (wind tech) is the fastest-growing profession in the United States, and these numbers are expected to double in the next decade. And although there are enough training facilities to meet the demand, there aren’t enough students interested in the field.”
After working with the Department of Energy to identify bottlenecks in the renewable energy education, Van Slyke realized that the issue lies in the lack of awareness about career opportunities in the industry.
To help solve this problem, he is collaborating with AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) to develop a license or certification for wind techs to motivate more people to seek training.
“Right now, there is no national standard,” Van Slyke says. “For example: auto mechanics have (ASE) standardized trainings but wind technicians don’t. Having a goal like that would help increase awareness and interest in the field.”
He adds: “Being a wind technician, especially at offshore power plants, is a great job if you’re adventurous and are not afraid of heights. Ecotech Institute provides focused, hands-on training for wind technicians in the United States. Other schools may have wind-related degrees, but they typically only offer one or two classes focused on wind turbines. On the other hand, at Ecotech Institute, we offer a wide array of classes and extensive training in operating, troubleshooting, maintaining and repairing wind turbine equipment.”