02 February 2008

Energy Peak Manpower: Wind Energy

Across the energy sectors, from oil to biofuels to solar to wind, the true peak is peak manpower. The shortage of trained engineers, technologists, technicians, tradesmen, craftsmen, and skilled labourers, is hamstringing the energy industry's attempt to grow.
"Finding experienced techs is impossible with wind growing as fast as it is," Martinson said. "You get one year's worth of experience and it's like dog years."...Last year, wind farms installed almost 3,200 turbines, boosting the nation's wind energy capacity by 45 percent and cranking out an additional 5,200 megawatts, or enough electricity to power 1.5 million homes for a year. The industry, which now accounts for a little more than 1 percent of the U.S. electric supply, expects to repeat that surge in 2008.

Critics of wind power have called the mammoth turbines eyesores and environmentalists have fought against them, warning the giant rotors could pose a hazard to migratory birds and other wildlife.

But wind power officials see a much larger obstacle coming in the form of its own work force, a highly specialized group of technicians that combine working knowledge of mechanics, hydraulics, computers and meteorology with the willingness to climb 200 feet in the air in all kinds of weather.

That work force isn't keeping up with the future demand, partly because the industry is so new that the oldest independent training programs are less than five years old.

Wind energy is only a tiny part of the energy industry. But the problem wind energy shares with all the approaches to providing energy to North America, is the dire shortage of skilled and trained workers. Peak manpower, not peak oil, not peak energy.

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Blogger Dennis Mangan said...

In the annual report of a mining company I own stock in, they said that one of their greatest obstacles to achieving their goals is lack of skilled manpower. Evidently, mining engineers and the like are as in short supply as in wind energy.

Saturday, 02 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for the comment, Dennis.

I am afraid the story will be the same across heavy industry. Skilled workers in heavy industry are in short supply. You hear about it most in the energy sector, but it's a problem everywhere--around the world.

You need college for most types of engineering, but you don't need college for most of the well paid jobs in heavy industry. You need training, aptitude, and experience. Most employers will take two out of three, sometimes one out of three.

Saturday, 02 February, 2008  

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