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Wind Energy Update

06 Sep 2011 03:09:25

Military servicemen and women in high demand for offshore wind construction

Offshore wind is a burgeoning industry right at the tipping point of moving from a test bed of new construction strategies and technology to a fully-fledged part of many European countries power generation portfolio.

Offshore wind is exciting; the scale of the wind farms and their turbines is huge. The amount of power that they can generate is vast with potentially a single offshore wind farm powering multiple cities. The financials concerning government backing, private investment and investor’s returns are great.

But the area where the industry is anything but massive is the volume of skilled, suited and available wind farm project managers, engineers and technicians. Studying a degree in offshore wind farm project management or construction is simply a dream. Believing that there are hundreds or thousands of those graduates to employ is folly. The industry is too new, too firm in the belief that everything we’re doing is brand new and that it all has to be designed from scratch.

But the wind farms still need building, and in the UK that could be close to 7000 unique turbines (depending on the make and models used) for round 3 projects alone. So we’re seeing a previously unexplored or underutilised pool of talent approached; The former servicemen and women of the world’s armed forces.

British, Dutch and Danish Royal Navy are just some places where the traditional military training programs contain many of the key criteria an offshore employer seeks. Thousands of hours of offshore work experience, check. Educated to a good standard of higher learning maybe even with specific electrical engineering skills sets, check. A built in sense of teamwork and respect for authority and command, check.

These men and women have worked to deadlines for most of their adult lives. They have been in harsh weather conditions and very likely been away from home comforts and their families for weeks at a time. They have worked in tight spaces. They are brave and work with a purpose.

So it is no surprise to hear and read that wind turbine OEM’s on both sides of the Atlantic such as Gamesa, are actively employing ex-military. Nor should it be a shock to learn that the UK national skills academy power sector is actively seeking out connections between the offshore wind community and a variety of military institutions.

In October 2011 in London at the world’s leading B2B offshore wind construction, installation and commissioning conference over 450 offshore wind experts from all aspects of the supply chain will be able to hear directly from the Royal Navy, National Skills Academy for power and three wind turbine OEMs as well as wind farm developers about what skills the offshore wind industry needs and where they will come from.

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