Monday, July 9, 2012

Green Jobs Series: Careers in Wind Energy [Installment 3]

Erecting wind turbines requires the efforts of many skilled workers, such as construction laborers, construction equipment operators, crane operators, and electricians. In today’s green jobs series installment, we will focus on construction jobs in the project development phase of the wind power industry.

Wind Power Construction Jobs

Many development and construction companies use both their own specialized construction workers and local contractors. Under the supervision of more experienced wind-industry workers, local construction firms prepare the site, erect the wind turbines, and connect them to the utility company's power grid.

Job Duties

Construction laborers often work on wind farms as contractors and are responsible for preparing the site and building the surrounding infrastructure. Their work includes clearing trees and debris from the wind farm, cleaning machines, and helping to break up the ground on which the turbine will rest. Construction workers employed by companies that specialize in developing wind farms are sometimes in supervisory roles.

Construction equipment operators, with the help of construction laborers, are responsible for building accessible roads directly to the construction site, helping ensure that the wind turbine components can arrive without damage or delay. They use bulldozers, road graders, and other equipment to set up the construction site.

Crane operators are necessary in building a wind farm because the components are so large. They use their cranes to lift the pieces of the turbine off the trucks as they arrive, as well as stack the tower segments and lift the blades to the hub.

Electricians are needed to get the energy from the turbine's generator to the power grid on the ground. They wire the turbine to connect its electrical system to the power grid.

Education and Training

Although some construction laborer jobs have no specific education or training requirements, some construction workers receive more formal training in the form of apprenticeships. Many construction laborers' skills are learned on-the-job and by assisting more experienced workers.

Construction equipment operators and crane operators learn their skills through on-the-job training, apprenticeships, or, for some, union instruction. In addition, the operators are expected to be certified to operate their equipment.

Most electricians learn their trade through apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. Depending on the state, electricians might have to pass an examination that tests their knowledge of electrical theory, as well as national, state, and local electrical and building codes.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have wage data specific to construction occupations that involve working on wind farms. However, the earnings of workers in these occupations are comparable to those of workers in the construction sector as a whole. The earnings in the following table are for workers in the construction of power and communication lines and related structures, which include wind turbines.

Occupation Median annual wage
Construction laborers $29,110
Construction equipment operators $39,530
Crane operators $47,170
Electricians $49,800

For more detailed information on wind power construction occupations, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Tomorrow's final wind energy series installment: Wind Turbine Service Technicians

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