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Wind turbine technicians in demand

Wind turbine technicians in demand(Via The Chief Engineer)Justin Copeland fought fires for a living, patched the injured as an

emergency medical technician and refueled everything from airliners to bush

planes in Alaska. Now he wants to settle down.So he plans to clamber up

tall, tall ladders several times a day to earn a paycheck turning wrenches

at an altitude that could make an acrobat dizzy.In times when it seems no jobs are out there, maybe the solution is to look

up there. Copeland is among a corps of wind technicians in training -

ambitious and daring men and women filling an exploding demand for workers

who can tend to giant windmills - in a rare field that needs more workers.“ I support clean renewable energy,” said the 37-year-old student at Cloud

County Community College. “But if there’s a job in it, that’s the big

thing.”With just enough training in mechanics, electronics and computer know-how,

instructors say just about anyone with the perseverance - and arms beefy

enough to climb 27 stories one rung after the next - can fashion themselves

into a wind technician in one year.From there, the possibilities seem to expand endlessly with the chance to

get in early on an industry that’s essentially goverment-mandated to grow,

and grow fast.Housed in a strip mall, the wind technician school is the only place in

Kansas and one of the few in the region teaching the trade. Indeed, across

the country the opportunities for learning the rather specialized work are

spread thinly.A freshly certified wind technician might expect to start at $18 or more an

hour, with plenty of chances at steady overtime, and a reasonable hope to

move into management within a few years and pull down six figures. Take

that, English majors.Although the United States surpassed Germany last year as the world’s

largest harvester of wind energy, wind turbines still account for less than

2 percent of the country’s electricity. The Obama administration aims to

push that to 20 percent by 2030.Already, the industry can’t make turbines fast enough - even though many

otherwise-ready-to-go projects are stalled by America’s frozen lending

markets - to keep pace with state and federal requirements pressuring

utilities to harvest more wind and other renewable sources for electricity.In 2007, it put up 3,188 turbines. On average, one technician can keep 10

windmills pumping electricity into the grid. The industry says it needs to

triple the rate at which it’s been installing towers to meet the goals set

by the Obama administration.“Our installed capacity is growing at a pretty rapid rate,” said Julie

Clendenin, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association. “The

training for the wind technicians needs to keep up.”And that means some of the 5 million green-collar jobs that President

Barack Obama promises to create over the next 10 years. The wind energy

industry estimates it will provide 500,000 of those jobs - a number

inflated by projections of spin-off industries. Still, it will take 30,000

manufacturing workers to create the turbines, towers and blades that turn

wind into watts. An additional 55,000 will pour the concrete, operate the

cranes and turn the bolts needed to plant the sequoia-like towers.Then comes work for the wind farm caretakers.The job is not for the faint of heart or the frail of arm. A particularly

fit technician can scramble from ground to turbine in perhaps five minutes

and expect to feel biceps burning from the effort upon arrival.What waits is a room the size of a small bus smelling heavily of grease and

crammed with motors, gears, a generator and sundry electronics. A typical

turbine contains 8,000 parts, and the largest can churn out 3 megawatts of

electricity. That puts the technician at the center of some complicated

machinery and working on high-voltage circuitry.If the wind on the ground is moving gently at, say, 10 mph, it will blow

harder up here, and the whole thing sways from si