When he was young, John Christensen used to tear his new toys and appliances apart just to see if he could put them back together, so when he grew tired of working in a stressful corporate environment, that desire for a new challenge pushed him to pivot his career into renewable energy.
He started working as a wind technician in 2012 and is now the lead site technician on one of the oldest turbine sites in Idaho. His current work allows him to continue to grow personally, as well as professionally.
Christensen said the most important skill a potential wind turbine technician can learn is to be able to figure things out.
“Turbines have fairly complicated electrical systems and back-ups so you need to be able to troubleshoot,” he said, “Each turbine has integrated safety, they have back-ups for backups so the turbine will slow itself down and there won’t be problems. You have to be able to learn something new and figure it out.”
To meet the significant demand for new sources of energy in the United States, the renewable energy workforce will need to double its current workforce to nearly one million by 2030. It’s a perfect time for career pivot makers like Christensen or recent graduates to train for in-demand jobs that offer opportunities for advancement, solid wages and benefits, along with opportunities to travel.
For individuals who are specialized in maintenance or electrical skills, continuing education opportunities exist to enhance their current skills or start a new renewable energy certification through places like the College of Southern Idaho, Northwest Renewable Energy Institute, or Idaho State University.
Renewable energy projects across the United States provide states and localities with critical revenue that allows communities the ability to plan and invest in their future, providing enough new income to repair roads, support schools, and fund essential services.
The two Magic Valley Energy projects are projected to employ 40 individuals and bring in $6.3 million in tax revenue annually to the Magic Valley, promising not only an economic boost to the area, but access to homegrown energy to serve Idaho and the West’s increased need for additional tens of thousands of megawatts to serve businesses, agriculture, and residential needs.
“Wind is always going to be here in some form,” Christensen said. “Any opportunity we have to capture some renewable energy is a good thing. The wind is going to blow whether we put a wind turbine up or not, but why shouldn’t we take advantage of it?”
With wind and solar projects increasing across the West, individuals who are interested in learning a new skill or pivoting their careers have a chance to get in while the market is booming.
“There is always someone hiring,” said Eli Bowles, College of Southern Idaho (CSI) Renewable Energy Systems Technology professor. “This is an essential business. Wind turbine technicians weren’t laid off during the shut-down –– they’ve had more work and I expect it to continue that way,” he said. “Making the switch to a renewable energy career is worth it.”
With more jobs in renewable energy on the horizon, Christensen hopes that sharing his story will inspire others to join him in the industry. And, follow their passions just like he did.