The European wind industry has grown so rapidly over the past decade that it is facing a critical shortage of skilled personnel, a new report reveals. There is currently a shortage of 7,000 qualified personnel required by the European wind energy sector each year, a figure that could increase to 15,000 by 2030 if the number of graduates taking courses relevant to the industry does not rise.
The figures come from a new report by the European Wind Energy Technology Platform (TPWind), based on research by renewable energy consultancy GL Garrad Hassan: “Workers wanted: The EU wind energy sector skills gap”. A full 78% of companies that responded to the TPWind questionnaire said they “found it difficult or very difficult to find suitably trained staff”. This in an EU with an overall 11% unemployment rate, and a youth unemployment rate of 20.9% (5.5 million people between the ages of 15-24).
Growing interest in the rapidly-expanding offshore wind sector took a new twist earlier this week when the website of the influential US magazine Popular Science published an article featuring marine-based wind turbine concepts with “super-chic lofts for employees.”
The article said that a Bulgarian design firm predicts a future in which gigantic offshore wind turbines come equipped with futuristic housing for workers.
“Part of the inspiration for these lofts was a European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) report estimating that by 2030, there will be over 300,000 jobs in offshore wind power,” the article said.
In fact, the European wind industry faces a severe skills shortage of around 7,000 appropriately qualified staff per year. This shortfall could climb to 15,000 by 2030 — nearly 2% of the entire wind industry workforce — if numbers of suitable workers don’t increase.
If you think the UK media report mostly anti-wind stories you could be right. But news just out could help to stem the flow of wind power criticism. Wind farms generate millions for the economy and create thousands of jobs, a new UK government-backed study has found.
The study followed the fortunes of 18 wind farms and found that communities around those farms received around £84 million (€104 million) in 2011, with 1,100 local jobs supported. BiGGAR Economics, an independent UK consultancy and author of the study, said that in total Britain’s onshore wind farms supported 8,600 jobs and were worth £548 million (€680 million) to the UK economy last year.
Over 200,000 people make the European wind industry tick. Who are they and what exactly do they do? Wind Directions met some ’wind workers’ to find out.
Martin Mortensen spends most of the year out of his home country, Denmark. A commissioning engineer with Suzlon for nearly 11 years, Mortensen’s job involves starting up the newly installed turbines and running tests to make sure everything is fine. He also does update work and trains service staff.
His long time in the industry means he remembers when a 900 kW machine seemed huge, and people said “Wow! We won’t be able to get any bigger than that!” Now he works with Suzlon’s 2.1 MW turbine.
It may look like one machine, but the average wind turbine is made up of 9,000 different components. Each of these needs to be manufactured, transported and put together, and a blip or delay at any one stage can affect the whole process.
The supply chain is crucial to the wind energy industry, with 75% of the total cost of energy for a wind turbine is related to upfront expenses such as the cost of the turbine, foundation, electrical equipment and grid connection.
Many of the materials used in wind turbines – such as stainless steel, aluminum, glass and carbon fibres — are also required in other industries, making a smoothly operating wind power supply chain all that more important.