The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

The Skilled Future of the Global Wind Market

Technological advances, particularly in onshore wind power, have moved the wind sector onto a more level playing field, making it competitive with traditional energy sources. More expert engineers are being employed to develop next generation technology, like larger offshore turbines (6 MW - 10 MW), and turbines capable of operating at much lower wind speeds inland, for example.

This influx of projects is consequently leading to an increase in demand for staff with the necessary skills and qualifications. The sector already employs 12,000 people; in his speech to the Global Offshore Wind Conference this year, UK energy secretary Ed Davey said this number could reach 97,000 by 2020. That’s a huge skills base to build in under a decade, and an increasingly complicated undertaking when you consider the global nature of the skills pool and the emergence of new markets around the world. 

It is clear that the growth of the wind energy market across Europe may result in a skills shortage. The development and deployment of offshore wind farms is expected to put a strain on local specialists in roles including planners, environmental impact assessment specialists, engineers, cable jointers, wind turbine technicians and project managers. Other general skills in areas like health and safety will be at a premium too. One short term solution for this is the transference of talent between sectors. For example, recruits could be sourced from offshore oil and gas backgrounds. Unfortunately the current pay on offer in the renewable sector means that the opportunities to do this may be limited. 

The other solution is to source workers internationally. Although this process can often be more administration-heavy for employers - not to mention expensive, with relocation costs and the need for attractive remuneration deals - it will likely be necessary to meet the demands of the fast-growing, global market. But while the international nature of the sector will alleviate recruitment pinch points, it also has the potential to cause skills gaps further down the line. The attraction of sunnier climes and increasingly competitive financial incentives abroad often proves too strong to resist for home workers at a certain level of seniority. At the same time, junior staff from overseas regularly move home once they have gained their valuable experience. The result is a potential middle management skills gap.

To plug this gap in the short term employers might consider promoting existing workers - in which case the gap will be shifted down to the junior ranks and may be ‘easier’ to tackle.   Whether employers decide to promote internally or seek middle-managers from outside of their company, recruiters must be prepared to react as the market changes.

Global Trends

Until long term measures can be undertaken, the renewable energy skills market is going to be significantly stretched – especially when Round Three (UK offshore wind projects) begins in parallel with the construction of the French offshore wind market. Combined, these schemes will lead to one of two outcomes: either there will be a mass departure of skills from countries such as the UK towards these projects, or there simply won’t be enough skilled workers to move them forward. 

Factor in the up-and-coming Far East market and its growing appetite for wind energy, especially offshore projects where a significant number of turbines are erected every day, and the skills shortage is further compounded.

In all global markets there is a need to focus on building skills and supply chain agility, as this will play a crucial role in supporting projects and avoiding bottlenecks, though the specific requirements of each territory varies.  For example, the US has a well established onshore market and, as a result, numerous units already in operation. This means they’ve already got an established skills base of individuals who can service and maintain the country’s onshore turbines from a mechanical and electrical perspective. Their workforce is typically flexible and operates across large regions. 

In contrast, in emerging markets, where there has been a rapid growth in the wind industry, there is a less well developed service capability and therefore a continuous demand for skilled workers. The current trend is for these individuals to be brought in from the West to work as service contractors. 

These issues are particularly acute offshore, where the necessary skills are more niche and specific to the project or location. We would anticipate this talent pool to be drawn from ‘established’ offshore markets such as the UK and Denmark, and, in the future, to become globally tradable as the offshore markets in areas like France and the Far East continue to develop.

The Importance of Education

Education has a crucial part to play in raising the profile of renewable energy as an attractive career. Universities must offer specific degrees and other programmes to promote a culture of 'on the job' training with clear progression paths for young talent. And there are signs that this is beginning to happen, with respected universities offering specialised renewables degrees. 

To guarantee a continual flow of talent into the industry, governments need to place a stronger focus on engineering at universities. An increase in the number of workers holding electrical and structural engineering qualifications, for example, would serve to support both on and offshore projects. An influx of, for example, quality electrical engineers qualified in grid connection and electrical design would provide a vital source of talent.

But we do need to tackle ingrained problems within the system to address the inherent skills shortage we’ve already touched upon. We believe it is due not only to a lack of focused engineering courses at universities but also to the general perception of the market. 

From local wind farms to international development initiatives, wind power is a global, growing business. Advances in technology have driven the sector's expansion; in order to keep pace with this growth, and to ensure that the skills pool remains fresh and available we must adapt our education and training structures and work on attracting young people into programmes and apprenticeships.

In the meantime, with plans for cross-continental supergrids taking shape, and emerging markets establishing rapidly, we risk widening skills gaps as our middle management emigrate – unless we can give them a reason to stay. The future of renewable energy will be played out on a global stage, and the delivery of wind projects will rely, above all, on a skilled, committed and flexible workforce.

This article is abridged. For the full version look out for the January-February edition of Renewable Energy World magazine – or why not subscribe

Lead image: Wind turbine worker via Shutterstock

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now


offshore wind

Hitachi Plans to Add Production Line for Offshore Wind Parts

Chisaki Watanabe, Bloomberg Hitachi Ltd. plans to expand its reach into the market for offshore wind projects by adding a production line to make...
Renewable energy

Leading US ICT Companies Renewables Use at 14%, and Growing

Andrew Burger Electricity consumption in the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry is growing rapidly. An...
Wind farms

Western: Streamlined Environmental Review Process for Wind Farms in Midwest ‘Takes Effect Right Away’

Jennifer Delony Western in an Aug. 26 record of decision (ROD) adopted a standardized process for collecting information and evaluati...

NextEra Commits to Hawaii’s Clean Power Goal, Local Management

Lynn Doan, Bloomberg NextEra Energy Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. made 50 new commitments as part of their proposal to merge ...


NC State University Installs Student-Funded Spotlight Solar Structure to Drive Awareness and Adoption of Clean Energy

North Carolina State University (NC State) will today showcase its commitment to clean ...

Canadian Solar Signs Agreement with Mashiki Town and Kumamoto Prefecture to Build 47 MW Solar Plant in Japan

Canadian Solar Signs Agreement for 47 MW Solar Plant

NEC Energy Partners with Eos Energy Storage to Bring Revolutionary Energy Storage Product to Market

NEC Energy Solutions (“NEC ES”), a subsidiary of NEC Corporation, announced today that ...

$100 Discount on 5-day Advanced PV Project Experience Workshop

Upcoming 5-day Workshops: Nov. 7 - 11 Feb. 6 - 10


Beyond Utility 2.0: Part 4 “Next Steps”

Principles, Structure, and Policies of Energy Democracy Energy democracy can best be described as an electricity sy...

30 Minutes Off

Smartphones have become one of the most valuable tools in the business world. They give us access to our email, conta...

Weather watching

GCube, the renewable energy sector insurance underwriter, has launched a new Weather Risk Transfer mechanism to provi...

How to Save on Your Next Power Bill

  Your rooftop solar is going to generate less electricity over the winter months. Your hot water and he...



Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Doing Business in Europe – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

There is now 128.8 GW of installed wind energy capacity in the EU (appro...

Doing Business in South Africa – in partnership with GWEC, the Glob...

Wind Energy in South Africa has been expanding dramatically, growing fro...

Distributed Wind Energy Workshop

Description: Distributed wind energy is electricity that is produced for...


Clean Energy Patents Maintain High Levels in First Quarter, Solar L...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies from the first quarter of 201...

Koch Professor drops his Koch title, still makes same errors plus s...

The Koch Professor’s title isn’t the only thing that’s...

Fact Check: AWEA represents American wind power

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is proud of its members for ...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now