on September 12th, 2023

With the global demand for clean energy rising, engineers with diverse skills are in high demand. Opportunities span electrical and mechanical to civil, industrial, and aerospace engineering.

Technology’s rapid evolution, driven by innovation and a growing emphasis on efficiency, is prominently evident in the wind energy industry’s emerging technologies.

Globally, there is a growing shift towards renewable energy sources to combat the environmental impact of fossil fuels. In 2022, clean energy made significant progress, although not as rapid as the previous year, according to the Clean Energy Council of Australia.

In the Clean Energy Australia Report 2023, the council noted, “Renewable energy accounted for 35.9 percent of Australia’s total electricity generation, up from 32.5 percent in 2021.”

This global transition to wind power has spurred the development of new energy technologies and created a plethora of job opportunities for engineers. In this article, we will explore emerging technologies to make wind energy more efficient and the engineering positions vital to their realization.

Vertical Axis Versus Horizontal Wind Turbines

Wind turbines, a common sight in the countryside of many countries, come in two main types: horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs) and vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs). Both generate electricity by harnessing the power of the wind.

HAWTs feature three blades and resemble airplane propellers mounted on towers. In contrast, VAWTs have propellers akin to electric whisks. Despite their blade differences, both operate similarly—wind turns the blades, causing a rotor to spin, generating electricity fed into the grid for public consumption.

While onshore wind farms powered by land winds are common, offshore wind farms utilizing sea winds have gained prominence. Notably, the Walney Extension in the Irish Sea stands as the world’s largest offshore wind farm, capable of supplying electricity to 600,000 UK homes.

However, onshore wind farms, including in Australia, still prevail worldwide due to their cost-effectiveness and accessibility despite the less consistent land winds.

New Energy Technologies

Wind turbine efficiency hinges on the turbine’s size and the length of its blades. Recent research has predominantly focused on advancements in these areas.

Blades have become longer, lighter, and more durable thanks to technologies like 3D printing. Innovative blade designs, such as curved tips, capture wind more efficiently. Additionally, new energy technologies aimed at enhancing wind energy efficiency include:

Wind Deflecting Turbines

These divert wind that hits the turbine tower to the blades, maximizing energy capture.

Digital Twin Modeling Systems

These enable remote configuration of wind turbines and farms for peak performance.

3D Modeling and Simulations

They allow for assessing new technologies or turbine designs before real-world testing.

Smart Blades

These adapt to wind flow for optimal performance and efficiency.

The Future of Wind Energy

Wind power continues to evolve beyond conventional turbines:

Offshore Floating Turbines

Unlike traditional offshore turbines anchored into the seafloor, floating turbines require no seafloor foundation. They “float” on platforms anchored in deep waters, where winds are stronger.

Airborne Wind Energy (AWE)

AWE eliminates the tower, utilizing a tethered rotor that harnesses wind power like a kite. This approach reduces manufacturing and installation costs while accessing higher altitudes with stronger winds, mainly offshore.

Offshore floating turbine variations.

Bladeless Turbines

These innovative turbines generate electricity through wind-induced vibrations instead of blades. Lighter, quieter, and cost-effective represent a striking departure from traditional designs.

Electrical engineers in action.

Careers in Wind Energy

The wind energy industry is poised for growth, offering a range of career opportunities, from wind farms to factories and offices that support turbine development and operation. This article focuses on engineering roles integral to this dynamic industry. Here are four key engineering positions:

Electrical Engineers

They design, develop, test, and oversee the manufacture of electrical components in wind turbines, including motors, controls, lighting, generators, communication systems, and transmission systems.

Industrial Engineers

Responsible for optimizing production processes in wind turbine manufacturing, these engineers strive to increase productivity and reduce costs while ensuring quality.

Mechanical Engineers

Involved in research, design, development, and testing of mechanical devices and components used in wind turbines and manufacturing equipment.

Civil Engineers

Play a crucial role in designing and supervising the construction of wind farm infrastructure, including roads, support buildings, tower foundations, and more.

Education And Training Needed

Engineers entering the wind power industry typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree in their respective engineering specialties. Some positions may require advanced degrees, such as master’s or doctoral degrees. Engineers must often be licensed and engage in ongoing education to stay current with evolving technologies.

Manufacturers prefer engineers with 3–5 years of relevant experience and knowledge of industry-standard systems and processes. Additional training, lasting several weeks to months, is common before engineers take on specific roles.

Entry-level engineers may start as interns or junior team members, working closely with senior engineers. As they gain experience and expertise, they take on more challenging responsibilities and greater independence.

Certifications may be required depending on the employer’s systems and practices, but licensure as a professional engineer (PE) is often desirable, though not mandatory for many wind turbine manufacturers. Engineering technicians, on the other hand, typically hold associate degrees or certificates from community colleges or technical schools.

Exciting Engineering Opportunities Ahead

The wind energy industry is advancing rapidly, offering numerous career opportunities for engineers across various disciplines. As emerging technologies drive efficiency and innovation in wind power, the demand for skilled engineers will only grow.

If you’re considering a career in renewable energy, now is an excellent time to explore the exciting possibilities within the wind energy industry or kick off your engineering education.


Clean Energy Council of Australia: Clean Energy Australia Report 2023 

What emerging technologies will make wind energy more efficient? 

Careers in Wind Energy 

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Offshore Wind Energy 

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