In Sweetwater, Texas, wind turbines rise above the horizon in every direction. It takes an army of wind energy technicians to keep them all running, and the quality of their training is critical to the longevity of the machines.
In late November, wind energy technicians and students arrived at Texas State Technical College West Campus for a two-day hands-on training event. WindTech 2012 brought attendees face-to-face with working professionals and offered them an opportunity to network, learn hands-on techniques, and engage with the latest technology.
The inaugural event was organized by the college, the Texas Wind Energy Clearinghouse and Windpower Engineering & Development magazine.
“Out there in the field or in the classroom, workers may not have the opportunity to try out new equipment or meet leaders in their industry,” said Courtney Seel, a manager with the magazine. “At WindTech, attendees enjoyed an unparalleled opportunity to meet with others, learn, and work with the latest equipment.”
The event took place inside and out, with industry professionals speaking in classroom settings on a variety of topics, from turbine monitoring to blade maintenance. The Sweetwater Fire Department even performed an aerial rescue demonstration, which received coverage in local media.
Among the event attendees was 25-year-old Andrew Grant. A student in the wind energy program at the technical college, he has also started work as a wind technician with AES. He helps oversee 67 Vestas turbines at one of the company’s Buffalo Gap sites. He is exactly the type of person events planners say they had hoped to attract.
Grant went to many of the classroom sessions, where he found one on gearbox-damage assessment particularly helpful. He also participated in the hands-on events, which included the application of epoxy resins to damaged blades, the handling of torqueing tools, and the use of suspended-access platforms – the latter of which attendees could obtain a certification in through presenting company Spider.
“It’s great to know how to do it, and if the company I’m working for ever purchases a suspended platform, then I’d be able to use it,” Grant said. “Also, having employees already certified in it would encourage that company to purchase something like that.”
The turnout at the event, which numbered about 200, was bolstered by students of the college, many of whom will be working in the wind industry in a few short months. TSTC Coordinator Griselda Sanchez, said the demand for wind technicians is overwhelming. So far, 248 graduates have been through the Wind Energy Technology program at the school. Currently, 69 students are enrolled.
“Our students can benefit tremendously from WindTech simply because this conference allows them to see so much first hand,” Sanchez said. “I can talk to a student about blade repair, but nothing is better than them being able to repair one for themselves in a lab.”
Wind technicians like Grant, although present, were scarcer. Seel says more focus will be on getting technicians to future events.
“It was a great first event,” she said. “Our goal for this year is to increase attendance by building programs that are essential to local wind-farm managers, so they lend their workers for a day to learn about some of the latest technology and practices – that’s what WindTech is all about.” The WindTech Events Facebook page will post places and times for its four events in 2013. WPE
Filed Under: Training