Author: Dr. Rupak Banerjee
In the past, I have written about the scope of opportunities in the renewable energy sector, and the specific opportunities in Solar Energy. In this post, let’s take a look into the opportunities that Wind Energy provides us with.
According to Dr. S Gomathiayagam of the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), Chennai, India has the potential for wind power installation of 48 GW, mostly focused in the south and western parts of the country (Gujarat, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu taking the biggest shares of the pie). However, this estimate has been arrived at assuming 50-meter-high wind turbines. Over the past 20 years, the height of the wind turbine has continued to grow, primarily driven by new engineering designs and the economic benefit of fewer taller towers compared to larger number of shorter towers, as detailed in this article in Renewable Energy World. Fewer towers not only means less towers to buy, but also smaller land requirements, lower maintenance costs, and less service road construction. In a country with a high population density as India, the reduced land requirement can be a big selling point. Therefore, it is better to strive for the taller, more economic wind turbines. For 80-meter-high wind turbines, the potential for wind power installation increases to over 100 GW. Current state-of-the-art wind turbines can reach over 100 meters in height, which is what India should strive for.
Currently, India has an installed wind capacity of 32 GW, providing a large scope for growth. In keeping with this, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy established the National institute of Wind Energy in 1998. With growth, comes an opportunity for new jobs.
Currently, the large wind turbine market is dominated by manufacturers located in China, South Korea, USA, Germany, and India. India has four major manufacturers: Elecon Engineering, RRB Energy Limited, Suzlon, and Inox Wind. They will provide new opportunities in manufacturing, as the growth in wind power generation picks up speed.
As expected, a quick look at the possible job options in Wind Energy reveals good opportunities for Mechanical and Electrical engineers. There is also a demand for chemical engineers and material scientists looking to build robust turbines which can sustain in harsh environments. These turbines are exposed to the whims and fancies of weather, and therefore, need to be designed to sustain under extreme conditions and corrosive environment. For engineers with Electronics or Computer systems background, integrating wind power into the grid requires modulating the changes in the power generation.
A great way to figure out what kind of jobs are available or will come about in the future, is by going through the wind career map by the US – Department of Energy. At the entry level, there are options which range from Meteorological Technician who install, maintain, and decommission meteorological towers and equipment, the conception of the project to the operations stage. In a practical sense, having a Secondary School education should be sufficient to tackle these jobs.
As for any large scale construction project, wind farms are going to generate construction work at the manufacturing sites for these wind turbines, which would require an increase in the vocational as well as diploma programs. If you hold a diploma in any Engineering discipline, increase in wind power generation is going to create more jobs. Highly skilled maintenance staff are going to be in demand, ranging from mechanics, electricians, and plumbers, to help maintain these large scale installations.
There would also be an increase in the need for professionals trained in Environmental Sciences or Earth Sciences, as these projects would need more analysis, not only at the land level but at the height they operate at. Wind farms, like solar projects are deployed over large areas. This increases the need for automation and the utilization of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor and check for maintenance, especially at the height of the turbine towers. So, a background in controls, or in robotics is definitely something to benefit from.
With increased deployment, there will also be an increase in demand for Data Scientists who work on energy modeling, financial modeling, and demand predictions for these intermittent sources of energy. If you feel like playing around with wind data, OpenEI provides free to access datasets that you can hone your skills on.
In the meantime, while you figure out how you want to build a career in wind power in India, here is a great visual tool to play around with, from NREL.
And if you feel like reading some more, check out the following books:
1. Wind Power Plants and Project Development By Joshua Earnest and Tore Wizelius
2. Build Your Own Small Wind Power System By Kevin Shea