In addition to the great views, historically one of the most attractive aspects of a career as a turbine rotor blade repair technician has been the seasonal nature of the work. For many, good earnings during spring and summer in the northern-hemisphere have supported a winter off to spend time with the family, or engage in other pursuits.
But, thanks to the wind industry’s rapid expansion over the past few years, what was once a seasonal occupation for most technicians now offers the opportunity to work and travel all over the world, all year round. Industry growth and a shortage of qualified technicians worldwide means that advanced blade inspection and repair skills are always in high demand where wind turbines are spinning.
Worldwide, the number of wind turbines continues to increase, and 2017 saw record growth in Europe, India, and the offshore sector in particular. This means that, while previously much more of a seasonal job, newly-trained turbine blade technicians today have a wealth of opportunities to take work overseas during the off-season of wherever they happen to be based.
For those based in Europe, for example, turbine blade technicians will typically work on-site across the continent between February and September, before wind and weather conditions bring an end to operations for the winter. Last year we had technicians working at wind farms both on- and offshore in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, to name just a few destinations.
But when the European winter really starts to bite, technicians now have the option of upping sticks and heading south to sunnier climes in the emerging wind markets of Africa, Asia and South America.
An All-Year-Round Industry
Compared with Europe and the US, wind energy markets in these regions are often in their infancy. But this can work in the favour of turbine blade repair technicians who are looking to secure employment all year round.
With most of the major training centres for blade repair located in Europe and the US, specialist turbine repair and maintenance skills are often in short supply in the emerging markets, where there are many newly-built wind turbines, but fewer local technicians to maintain them. As a result, technicians working on behalf of some of the major blade service providers, such as Siemens, Maersk and Altitec, will often be called on to travel out to wind farms in the likes of Mexico, Australia and South Africa to conduct inspections, repairs and maintenance.
South Africa has emerged as a key wind market where qualified repair technicians have been in high demand. Last year saw 621MW of new turbine capacity, or more than 600 turbines blades, come online. Altitec had a number of London-trained technicians working on the ground in South Africa’s Eastern Cape from December onwards. In recent years technicians have also been working regularly in Australia, Mexico and much of South America, in wind markets such as Brazil.
For work in most markets around the world, technicians are able to earn comparable wages with Europe, with travel and accommodation covered by the contract. With the growth of wind energy advancing in southern-hemisphere markets, all you need to take advantage of the year round opportunities is good training, a sense of adventure, and, of course, a passport.