The amount of wind power in Australia has seen steady and increasingly steep growth since the early 2000s, and this trend is expected to continue. The wind sector is an expanding employment opportunity in Australia.
Engineers are important. Many are needed for the technical design and specification of a wind farm. However, there is a whole network of other professionals that support that work. Planners, environmental scientists, stakeholder engagement officers, lawyers, financial managers and various types of specialised consultants are involved in determining appropriate sites, planning, consulting and designing a wind farm.
Once a project is green lighted, access roads are then built, large components such as towers and blades are transported, foundations are laid to support the turbines, and a lot of machinery is involved in the assembly or towers, nacelles and blade segments. The construction of a wind farm usually takes around 18 months and calls for hundreds of civil, mechanical and electrical trades workers involved in the construction and commissioning as well as labourers and machine operators to work with and around cranes, trucks and other heavy or industrial machinery.
A lot goes into the design, construction and then operation of a wind farm.
Once the construction is completed, anywhere upwards from nine key trade-qualified field-based roles support the operation and maintenance of wind power. All these roles are in high demand.
For a technician’s role in the wind sector, a trade of some kind is needed – either electrical or mechanical. Alternatively, someone with solid experience and competency working with mechanical systems, machinery,and problem solving in that context might be able to demonstrate competency.
This is then supplemented by relevant training or work licenses such as the construction industry white card, a high-risk work license for such things as dogging, working at heights and other safety training endorsed by the Global Wind Organisation (see more detail on Global Wind Organisation training below). For some technicians, more advanced training is required in industrial rope access (see more detail on Industrial Rope Access Trade Association training below).
Choosing a career as a technician in wind power in Australia means being comfortable working at heights, having a willingness to live regionally or commute, and the ability to travel to different sites on an irregular basis. It often also requires shift work. It is a highly skilled and rewarding job looking after elements of construction and then routine, preventative, corrective, and reactive maintenance and operation of turbines or blades on a wind farm.
The most relevant industries in terms of transferable skills are the construction sector, mechanical or industrial engineering, oil and gas, mining and metals, and automotive. Anyone with experience or interests in composite materials might seriously consider a career as a blade technician. A particularity of blade technicians is that they will generally only work up the tower over the summer months, so it is common for these individuals to split the year working in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres following the sun.
Global Wind Organisation (GWO)
GWO has set a benchmark for the industry acceptable safety standard for the wind sector. The standard outlines the requirements of certain training courses that are delivered by certified training providers.
Upon completion of a GWO course, individuals receive a GWO certificate which is accepted by all GWO member organisations as evidence of competence and knowledge of the specific safety standard.
Most of Australia’s wind power developers and operators are GWO members.
Visit GWO's website for more information or for a list of GWO training providers.
Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) training
IRATA, instigated by the offshore oil and gas sector, is an international accepted qualification for rope access technicians. It describes a safe method of work and provides ongoing professional support to technicians. It is used across many industries, including the wind sector.
IRATA qualification has three levels with a certain number of on-rope working hours needed to demonstrate proficiency at each level. There are around 20 IRATA Approved Training centres in Australia. Visit IRATA's website for more information.