By Trinity Doughan, Director of Technical Learning, EDF Renewables.
EDF Renewables North America has been a leading provider of third-party operations and maintenance (O&M) services for over 35 years. We pride ourselves on providing top-notch training for our wind turbine technicians, and we recently took an important step to further enhance this program.
In June, we became certified providers of the Global Wind Organization’s Basic Technical Training program (GWO BTT). Setting a new standard for wind technician training headquartered in Denmark, the GWO is a highly respected non-profit entity that was founded by several of the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturers and owner/operators to set common international standards for safety training and emergency procedures. The GWO published the first version of its Basic Safety Training (BST) standard in 2012, followed in 2017 by the BTT standard. Since then, the organization has launched a range of other training standards.
Formalizing our basic wind technician training program by achieving GWO certification is a significant accomplishment, and one that demonstrates EDF Renewables’ ongoing commitment to remain an industry leader in third-party O&M services.
The GWO BTT program consists of three modules that cover core principles related to the mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems in wind turbines.
I lead EDF Renewables’ technical training team, which is composed of three team members: Gaetan Minville, who focuses on wind technician training; John Opris, a wind industry veteran who became a wind technician trainer in 2008 but now focuses on solar technician training; and Scott Buehler, who manages the training programs for both technologies.
“Although GWO BTT training has long been offered by wind turbine manufacturers such as GE, Siemens and Vestas, EDF Renewables is the first North American independent power producer to receive certification for its BTT program,” says Dan Ortega, who serves as the GWO’s North American representative.
“The GWO BTT is an international level certification that is rapidly becoming the industry standard,” says Dalen Copeland, VP of Strategic Initiatives, Asset Optimization, EDF Renewables. “It enables us to continue to provide our clients and investors with top-quality O&M services performed by GWO certified technicians, while ensuring that everyone in our team is equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to perform their work safely and effectively.”
EDF Renewables’ inaugural class of 11 technicians completed the 29-hour, week-long GWO BTT program in July 2022. Training sessions are limited to 12 students per class and will be held every six weeks, resulting in formalizing our basic wind technician training program. Achieving GWO certification is a significant accomplishment, and one that demonstrates EDF Renewables’ ongoing commitment to remain the industry leader in third-party O&M services.
By the end of 2022, we expect to add the GWO’s Basic Safety Training to EDF Renewables’ program, which will include fire awareness, first aid, working at heights and manual handling, and will extend the combined program to two weeks. The training is designed to be approximately 60% instructor-led theory and 40% hands on.
Riverland Community College (Riverland) in Minnesota has a wide range of wind turbine componentry available, and we have many sites in the area that we can visit as well. Even our seasoned technicians learn new things from this training, and they share their experiences in the field, which enhances the classroom discussion. The course also ends up being a great teambuilding and networking experience. We bring in technicians from all over the country. They bond as cohorts during the training, and once they return to their sites, they have a network of peers they can reach out to.
Peggy Young, Customized Training Representative at Riverland, remarked, “Riverland is excited to host EDF Renewables customized GWO BTT training program. We offered our first wind technician training program in 2008 and are proud to have produced numerous graduates who are supporting the clean energy transition across the country.” The hands-on training is supported by a $49,754 grant the college received this year from the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development. EDF Renewables worked closely with Riverland to write the grant application.
In 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that wind turbine technicians continued to be one of the fastest-growing jobs in the country. More than 11,000 technicians were employed across the US last year, a number that was expected to grow 44% in the next 10 years, adding nearly 5,000 more jobs. “I really appreciated the opportunity to go through the certification process,” reflected Mitchell Reinsma, a wind technician at the Fenton Wind Farm in Chandler, Minnesota. “I’ve received a lot of on-the-job training from my site manager and colleagues since joining EDF Renewables earlier this year but being able to go through everything in an organized course was very helpful.”
At EDF Renewables, our commitment to investing in our team is integral to the long-term sustainability of our business. Attracting and retaining the best people, and ensuring they have the skills and training to do their jobs as well as possible, is essential to our ability to continue to deliver industry-leading performance to our customers and investors.