Growing Wind Energy Careers
Climate Solution Career Profile of Wanda Davies
Project Developer for First Mile Development
On a recent trip to my home state of Minnesota, I had an opportunity to learn about the promising growth of Wind Energy from my cousin, Wanda Davies. Knowing that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% each decade between now and 2050 to avert the most damaging effects of climate change and global warming, I have refocused on Climate Solution Careers. My goal is to inspire our workforce to achieve transformational changes in our economy that would improve the health of our world community.
According to the International Renewable Energy Association, wind power, along with solar energy, leads the way for the transformation of the global electricity sector. Onshore and offshore wind energy is expected to generate more than one-third (35%) of total electricity needs, becoming the predominant energy source by 2050.
Wanda grew up in Roseville Minnesota and lived in Wisconsin with her husband and raised their two daughters. During this time, she served on the Mequon planning commission and volunteered at the local Audubon nature center. After her daughters started college, she moved back to the Twin Cities and decided to find a new job.
She met with an investment banker friend who talked about the growth of wind energy. Wanda started researching job opportunities connected with Gamesa Energy. The company found Wanda’s experience on elected boards to be helpful in the permitting process of wind energy projects. She started with the company as Project Developer and was later promoted to Director of the Midwest Region. Her work involved developing new projects and markets and seeking special use permitting for wind energy in the Midwest.
Most recently, Wanda’s wind energy expertise was sought out by a company called First Mile Development. She currently serves as Senior Project Developer for the company, which is based in Bloomington, Minnesota. She works with a variety of staff and consultants remotely and on the project site. Her role is to coordinate project start up and the leasing of land for wind projects that include between 34 and 67 wind turbines.
As Project Developer, Wanda coordinates other employees and stakeholders. There are consultants who conduct geotechnical, historical, storm, wind and water studies. Land agents obtain signed lease agreements with farmers and landowners. Wind and electric engineers lay out the land configuration. Legal experts review titles and leases.
The process of developing wind energy projects starts with tabletop studies where geographical areas are evaluated for wind resources, transmission infrastructure, migratory flyways and wetlands. Wanda notes that these initial studies use GIS software which is an excellent and marketable job skill.
Wanda shares that the skills needed for her work are primarily related to organization, communication and extraversion. The work requires making cold calls and facing rejection. It is also important to have a basic knowledge of the business and technical aspects of wind energy.
Wanda expects that the growth of such renewable energy development projects will continue for multiple years. Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard calls for generating 25% of energy from renewable sources (wind, solar, hydrogen, biomass and hydroelectric) by 2025. Because of delays caused by COVID, there is a pent-up demand for renewable project development, creating multiple job opportunities.
Climate Solution Careers in Wind Energy
As the Wind Energy Industry grows it will provide many opportunities for people in search of new careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies wind jobs in 3 phases: the Component Manufacturing Phase, the Project Development Phase and Operation and Maintenance Phase. The following diagram illustrates the process.
Component manufacturing jobs include research and development and production of wind turbine components. This phase uses the raw materials of steel, cast iron, fiberglass, rubber, concrete and aluminum to manufacture the wind turbine components, including blades, tower, nacelle and generator.
Project development work focuses on site selection, scientific studies, land leasing, asset management, logistics and building.
Operation and maintenance jobs involve keeping the turbines running efficiently. Roles include wind turbine technician and jobs with energy and utility companies.
For more information about careers in Wind Energy, see the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics document entitled Careers in Wind Energy.
Wind Energy Companies and Organizations
Wind Energy Facts
In 2021, the U.S. wind industry supported more than 120,000 jobs across all 50 states.
Wind energy provides a quarter of the electricity produced in eight states... and growing.
Wind energy can avoid 329 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Wind is the largest source of renewable electricity generation in the United States, providing 9.8% of the country’s electricity and growing.
Resources on Climate Solution Careers and Wind Energy
Careers in Wind Energy by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Clean Energy Jobs US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
Energy News Network is a nonprofit news site dedicated to keeping influencers, policymakers and citizens informed of the important changes taking place in the transition to a clean energy system.
Global Emissions by Economic Sector Environmental Protection Agency
Green Goods and Services (GGS) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Green growth: Employment projections in environmentally focused occupations. US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Land-Based Wind Market Report: 2022 Edition Executive Summary US Department of Energy
My Next Move What Do You Want to Do for a Living? Energy Careers
US. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector. Environmental Protection Agency
Wind Power Facts American Clean Power
Wind Powering America US Department of Energy