Wind Energy Engineer
A wind energy engineer could...
|Be part of a team that installs a wind energy farm in the ocean.||Analyze annual wind speed and direction data to determine the best location for a wind farm.|
|Test a new wind-turbine blade design in an air tunnel.||Work with vendors to design and fabricate custom electrical components.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Every day the Earth provides us with many sources of renewable energy to power our lifestyles. Wind energy is an example of a renewable energy because wind is a naturally replenished source. But how can energy be extracted efficiently from the wind? Sounds like a job for a wind energy engineer! The wind energy engineer works on modeling, designing, and building wind turbines and wind farms. These engineers are passionate about wind, renewable energy, and the environment, and they enjoy applying their math and science skills.|
|Key Requirements||Problem-solving skills, persistence, innovative mind, critical-thinking skills, excellent oral and written communication skills, ability to work effectively independently and on teams|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra II, calculus; if available, computer science, statistics|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%) In Demand!|
Education and Training
A bachelor's degree in engineering, such as electrical, aeronautical, aerospace, mechanical, or civil, is required for a position as a wind energy engineer. Individuals who wish to conduct research at a governmental laboratory, university, or for a corporation are encouraged to seek an advanced degree. Most employers prefer to hire candidates with previous experience.
Wind energy engineers should be creative, analytical, and detail oriented. They must be able to communicate effectively with a variety of professionals, including vendors, technicians, and project managers.
Nature of the Work
Wind energy engineers are responsible for designing, building, and monitoring wind turbines and wind turbine farms. These engineers get to combine their math, science, and engineering skills with their interest in the environment. Wind energy engineers work to create alternative energy solutions to the problems of how we humans are going to power our lives in the future. They are employed by government laboratories, universities, and private corporations.
Wind energy engineers are involved in all diverse phases of extracting energy from the wind. They can model the potential of extracting energy from a possible farm site. In this case, they work with meteorologists to make sure that they understand the long-term weather patterns in the area. They design special materials for turbine blades that have special stress and fatigue characteristics. They apply the principles of aerodynamics to design efficient turbine blades and perform analysis. Because wind energy engineers design blades, employers look for candidates who are experts in computer aided design (or CAD). They work on constructing wind energy farms and on installing wind turbines. They design the electrical systems that are necessary for the wind turbines to operate at peak performance. The job is not done when the wind farm is installed. Wind energy engineers are constantly monitoring the operation of the wind farm by acquiring and analyzing data collected from the wind turbines. These engineers are also responsible for developing programs to improve the wind turbines' performance and reduce the cost of long-term operations. Since wind energy engineers can work on a wide variety of projects, they come from diverse engineering backgrounds. Wind energy engineers can be trained as aeronautics engineers, material scientists, mechanical engineers, civil engineers, and electrical engineers.
Most wind energy engineers work in office buildings, laboratories, or industrial plants. Others may spend time outdoors at construction sites, where they monitor or direct operations, or solve on-site problems. When working on site they may have to deal with harsh conditions. Engineers responsible for monitoring wind turbines must be physically able to climb towers exceeding 100 meters and must be comfortable at these heights. Some engineers must travel extensively to visit plant or work sites as well as clients both in the U.S. and abroad.
On the Job
- Design underground or overhead wind-farm collector systems.
- Analyze operation of wind farms or wind farm components to determine reliability, performance, and compliance with specifications.
- Create models to optimize the layout of wind-farm access roads, crane pads, crane paths, collection systems, substations, switch yards, or transmission lines.
- Create or maintain layouts, schematics, or other visual documentation for wind farms.
- Develop active-control algorithms, electronics, software, and electromechanical or electrohydraulic systems for wind turbines.
- Develop specifications for wind technology components, such as gearboxes, blades, generators, frequency converters, and pad transformers.
- Direct balance of plant (or BOP) construction, generator installation, testing, commissioning, or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) to ensure compliance with specifications.
- Monitor wind farm construction to ensure compliance with regulatory standards or environmental requirements.
- Perform root cause analysis on wind-turbine tower component failures.
- Provide engineering technical support to designers of prototype wind turbines.
- Test wind turbine components, using mechanical or electronic testing equipment.
- Test wind turbine equipment to determine effects of stress or fatigue.
- Investigate experimental wind turbines or wind turbine technologies for properties such as aerodynamics, production, noise, and load.
- Oversee the work activities of wind farm consultants or subcontractors.
- Recommend process or infrastructure changes to improve wind turbine performance, reduce operational costs, or comply with regulations.
- Write reports to document wind-farm collector system test results.
Companies That Hire Wind Energy Engineers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Wind Energy Engineer that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- Ferrante, E. (2010, July 22). Engineer Seeks Better Control of Wind Energy. LiveScience.com. Retrieved September 17, 2010, from http://www.livescience.com/culture/wind-energy-johnson-sl-100722.html
- National Science Foundation. (n.d.). Green Revolution: Wind. Retrieved September 17, 2010, from http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/greenrevolution/
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (n.d.). Green Careers: Renewable Energy Scientist. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://climate.nasa.gov/kids/greenCareers/renewableEnergyScientist/
- The Phoenix Learning Group, Inc. (2009, October 16). Green Careers: Clean Energy - Wind Power. Retrieved September 17, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYSlfE53SFs=related
- The Futures Channel. (2010). The Wind Business. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://www.thefutureschannel.com/dockets/science_technology/wind_farming/
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of: