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Wind power: Siemens services wind turbines

The great irony of the new Siemens Energy’s Wind Service Training Center in Orlando is that Florida lacks the basic resource for being a wind-energy producer.

Florida’s “wind resources are not of great enough magnitude” to make the current wind energy technology truly productive, says Tim Holt, CEO of Service Renewables at Siemens Energy. The Plains States and West Texas are more favorable U.S. locations for operating the windmills of the 21st century. “However, as new wind turbine technology develops, such as longer blades and taller towers, the wind industry will be able to explore development in states where wind energy is not yet available.”

What the Sunshine State does have is Orlando International Airport, which Siemens Energy found convenient for bringing in wind turbine service techs stationed throughout the Americas. Siemens opened the $7-million, 40,000-sq.-ft. wind service training facility near the airport in September 2013 on the heels of a boom in wind turbine installations in the United States. The facility trains about 200 Siemens wind turbine service techs a month.

The center combines classroom training with realistic technical, mechanical and safety exercises performed on three 30-foot towers and in two actual, 100-ton-plus nacelles, the generator components of the turbine. The nacelle sits atop an 80- to 100-meter tall steel cylinder, harnessing three blades — each measuring 148 feet to 180 feet — that generate power when turned by the wind. One 2.3-megawatt onshore wind turbine can power nearly 700 average U.S. houses for a day, says Kevin McCarty, Siemens’ technical training manager.

The ideal candidates for the job include airplane mechanics and other techs with experience in hydraulics and electrical systems, McCarty says. The work takes techs to remote locations, even to offshore wind farms, where they work in pairs for a week at a time. The acrophobic and/or claustrophobic need not apply.

Only three months after opening the wind service training facility, Siemens announced it had received the largest onshore wind turbine order in the world. The $1.9-billion deal with MidAmerican Energy will create five wind farms in Iowa, with 448 turbines generating a total output of a gigawatt of power by late 2015. That’s enough clean energy for nearly 320,000 average American households a day, Siemens says.