Golden cornfields stretched out 24 stories below Will Osborn, the autumn landscape dotted with silos and farmhouses.
Of course, he didn’t have much time to gaze. Planted atop a wind turbine — one of a few dozen here — Osborn was diagnosing a weather sensor.
Osborn’s job, wind technician, is the fastest growing occupation in the nation. As utilities rapidly increase the amount of power they get from wind farms, workers willing and able to climb hundreds of feet to keep turbines running smoothly are in high demand. Students in wind power training programs in Minnesota are getting jobs as soon as they graduate or even before.
“I do what pays the bills, and I looked at what was happening and will be happening for the next 30 years, and wind maintenance seemed win-win,” said Osborn, who works for Vestas, a global wind energy giant.
As wind and solar energy have grown, they’ve created a tide of jobs nationwide in fields from construction to manufacturing. Renewable energy jobs, most of which are in wind and solar, grew by 16 percent to around 6,200 in Minnesota from 2015 to 2016, according to a recent study by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, an industry-led nonprofit.
“If you look at the areas where wind is concentrated — like in southwestern Minnesota — it’s a very big deal,” said Kevin Pranis, marketing manager for the Laborers Union in Minnesota and North Dakota. Wind projects are a sought-after gig, providing laborers with six to eight months of work as the project is built out.
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