A wind farm can’t be created without input from an electrical engineer. Their initial role involves identifying transmission constraints and determining the cost to overcome them. This is a vital step in determining if a potential wind farm is financially viable before investing more time and money into a project.
“When we find a new potential wind energy site, one of the first things we investigate is if there is an existing transmission infrastructure and it’s ability to take new power,” says Curt Bjurlin, Senior Wind Developer for EcoEnergy LLC. “That is very important. You can’t have a wind project without having an outlet for the power generated by the turbines.”
The input of an electric engineer is also useful when determining the optimum layout and quantity of turbines. “As the project moves forward, the electrical engineer becomes very involved in the design of the collection system that ties the turbines together, and the transmission lines and substations that bring the power to market,” says Bjurlin. This helps maximize the energy potential of a given site, while bearing development costs in mind.
A degree in electrical engineering, a background in wind energy, and an ability to work with a team are essential. Electrical engineering for wind power is a particularly appealing role for engineers now, given the effects of the recession on the job market for engineers as a whole.
Sarah Lozanova is passionate about the new green economy and is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Energy International Quarterly, ThinkGreen.com, Triple Pundit, Green Business Quarterly, Renewable Energy World, and Green Business Quarterly. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative.