By Jennifer Delony
With an installed capacity of more than 70 GW, the U.S. wind power market now has a massive fleet of installed generators that need regular upkeep for top performance. As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor this year identified wind turbine service technician as the fastest growing occupation — with an expected increase of 108 percent between 2014 and 2024.
The job of the wind technician is no easy feat — requiring climbs of about 300 feet, no fear of heights, and the ability to work both independently and as part of a team, while being completely trustworthy. These technicians often must work miles away from population centers and emergency services, so they need to know not only how to reduce their risk of injury but also give first-responder support in the event of injury.
Training, therefore, becomes a critical component of a wind service technician’s job. A group of Power Generation Week attendees on Monday got a look inside a wind service technician training center in Orlando to see what goes into making the job safe for this fast-growing segment of energy workers.
Inaugurated in 2013, Siemens Energy’s Orlando-based wind service training center provides Siemens wind turbine service technicians with advanced technical and safety training for onshore wind farm field work throughout the Americas.
The facility features systems that simulate field environments to give trainees the knowledge they need to stay safe at heights. Also on site are two Siemens wind turbine nacelles — a G2 2.3-MW with a gear box and a D3 3-MW direct drive, which does not have a gear box. Each nacelle is fully equipped to give trainees an understanding of the hazards specific to working in tight spaces. The D3 direct drive has about 50 percent fewer moving parts than the G2, so having both configurations at the center allows trainees to experience the difference between the two nacelle environments.
Trainees — typically new hires — initially take a three-week orientation program that has 16 courses. The program is 70 percent safety-based and 20 percent technical, while the rest is company-related. After completing the training program, new technicians can work in the field with another technician who is trained as a crew leader. Those crew leads have put in additional training at the facility in Orlando for advanced safety, systems, and operations and maintenance.
According to Siemens, the Orlando wind training center is one of four Siemens wind service training facilities globally, joining Brande, Denmark; Bremen, Germany; and Newcastle in the United Kingdom. All four training centers are certified by the Global Wind Organization (GWO) as offering the industry's highest level of safety training.