The demand for wind energy is growing all over the country. No longer is it a few key states that are driving installation and production rates, but rather, smaller-scale wind energy projects are cropping up, and along with them, the demand for qualified engineers, The Houston Chronicle reports.
According to the news source, if the sector hopes to see continued growth, it will need the commitment of engineers from several disciplines.
"It's a great field for engineers," said Michelle Mihelic, manager of health, labor and safety policy for the American Wind Energy Association.
Mihelic added that engineers of all kinds are necessary for propagating wind energy, whether it's for the planning of the land for a wind farm, the construction of the turbine or the maintenance of the machine. Andrew Swift, director of the Texas Wind Energy Institute, said he expects the boom in wind energy to be especially helpful for mechanical and electrical engineers, both critical to the turbine development process.
According to the media outlet, mechanical engineers are needed to continue advancements in turbine design, aerodynamics and control systems, and also the manufacturing of the products. The U.S. receives about 70 percent of its turbines from U.S. manufacturers, and as demand for wind farms grows, mechanical engineers will be needed to make these products taller, stronger and more efficient.
"It all requires engineering expertise," Mihelic said. "And that's just the manufacturing side."
The media outlet also noted that electrical engineers have a large hand in the development process, as they work with and design the power systems that connect to the turbines. These experts manage the power electronics and control systems that are in place to monitor electricity flow of the system.
Considering wind farms are built in varied terrain ranging from cities and rooftops to sprawling farmland, civil engineers will also be needed to determine the optimal topography, location and delivery of equipment before installation.
"Every time you propose a wind project, it has to be assessed at varying levels with interconnection studies to decide whether to build or not," said Liz Salerno, director of industry data and analysis with the American Wind Energy Association.
However, this doesn't mean these are the only engineers needed to expand wind energy across the nation. Construction engineers and computer engineers will be in high demand, while industrial engineers will also need to share their expertise in supply chain management and other functions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, not only do civil engineers make higher-than-average salaries, employment for these workers is expected to grow by 19 percent through 2020. Environmental engineers, which pay about the same, will have even better employment prospects, which are expected to grow by about 22 percent in the same period – faster than the average for all other occupations in the country.