Over the last two decades, research and investment in sustainable energy have increased dramatically. Wind power, meanwhile, has become one of the fastest growing sources of electricity generation in the world.
Wind energy is clean, environmentally inert and inexhaustible. The same thing can be said about solar energy, but in a windy area, the amount of energy available is very large compared to solar, according to an expert. “For the size of equipment, a modern wind turbine - typically 80 metres across, blade tip to blade tip - can generate a megawatt and a half to two megawatts at peak output,” he says. “A similar sized solar panel array, which would be huge, would probably be five times as expensive in terms of how much area it’s covering and produce a fraction of the power output.”
The sector in wind energy that is likely to produce the majority of new jobs is manufacturing / installation / operation, but it tends to employ engineers mostly, as manufacturing engineers, plant managers and quality assurance personnel. However, these companies also specialise in wind energy analysis, design, testing and management. People with degrees in computer science, aerodynamics, atmospheric science or mathematics are likely to find positions in this industry. Since wind energy is an international industry, many of these positions may require travel.
The wind industry also offers opportunities in the service sector, for field technicians, installation technicians and operational maintenance experts. These jobs require a range of education and experience, in science or other fields. One area in particular, that requires scientific expertise is the environmental assessment of the proposed site for the location of the turbines which is studied to determine whether drinking water, plants or animals would be affected by a new wind-power facility. A bachelor degree in biology or environmental science would be a requirement for this job. Some of these positions also require extensive professional experience in the field concerned.
However, probably the most important kind of assessment work is resource assessment. Wind-resource assessors characterise the wind resource at a particular site, analysing wind patterns, predicting how much energy a wind farm at that location would be likely to produce, and providing technical information to support site-choice decisions. Such data is important to another group, the utilities and grid operation managers. Consequently, people in meteorology could also find a career in wind energy.
Schooling & School Subjects
Various careers with different requirements. For engineering or a scientific career, a NSC meeting requirements for a degree or diploma course.
This field makes use of electrical, mechanical and computer engineers, MBAs, meteorologists, environmentalists, plant managers, marketing managers etc.
An internship with a wind company is probably the best way to enter the field.
African Wind Energy Association
P O Box 313
Tel and Fax: (022) 492-3095
South African Wind Energy Association
Gordon’s Bay, 7800
Tel: 072 479-4215 Fax: 086 6712563
Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa
P O Box 868
Tel: (011) 789-1384. Fax: (011) 789-1385