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.
Botswana International University of Science and Technology, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Tanzania), Mzuzu University, University of Botswana, University of Johannesburg, University of Mauritius, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch