Ready for renewable energy industry
Public-private partnerships make students more well-rounded maintenance professionals-and more ready for the renewable energy industry.
By Earl Bailey, Snap-on Industrial
If you're a technician working in the renewable energy industry, a torque wrench is going to be one of your go-to tools on a daily basis. Wind turbines, solar panels and many other system components within the industry call for very precise torque as part of their maintenance procedures.
But correctly applying torque to equipment and machinery in the renewables industry is much more involved than simply pulling on the tool and listening for the click, beep, vibration or flashing lights.
The next generation of technicians responsible for maintaining the renewable energy infrastructure in the U.S. needs to be proficient in both the operation of systems in their charge, as well as the tools to make those repairs successful. A thorough understanding of tools is a critical component to a technician's overall training program that cannot be overlooked—and that process starts in the classroom.
Some tooling and equipment manufacturers have been working closely with industry and schools to develop specialized curriculum that helps educate and train students on the tools they'll need following graduation. The demand for this type of coursework is clear. As the renewable energy industry becomes more complex, so too are the tools needed to keep those systems operating. Tools such as torque wrenches have tremendous capabilities and are engineered for very precise measurements and functions—but to unleash the full functionality of those tools requires the students using them to possess an in-depth knowledge of their use.
That's where certified training comes in.
Tooling manufacturers such as Daniels Manufacturing, Snap-on and others have developed courses to train, evaluate and certify students on tools and equipment specific to the renewable energy industry. The goal is to create a uniform standard of training so everyone receives the same classroom and hands-on instruction.
One of those certification courses is in torque, a must-have discipline for students and veteran technicians working in the industry. Newer power generation systems are more efficient, while outputting more energy than ever before. As such, some systems are larger than earlier models, placing greater onus on the bolts and fasteners to effectively keep everything together.
For example, some wind turbines can have several thousand bolts, each of which is engineered to a specific torque load. When you have a wind farm with 100 or more operating turbines, that's a lot of bolts and fasteners that need regular attention.
The value of a torque certification course is that it not only teaches how to use wrenches and multipliers to apply torque, but dives deep into identifying bolt grades, metal grades, hardness, thread pitch, lubrication and other factors pertinent to torque. In addition to hands-on training, it also includes theory such as application, clamping force, safety and calibration equations—all things that students need to know when they report to their first job. Not only does this provide them more knowledge about torque and the tools, but it gives them information that will assist their productivity and it will help make them a well-rounded professional.
To help facilitate these certifications, Snap-on has joined forces with the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), a network of education providers and corporations that support advances and validate new and emerging technology skills in a number of industries. Certifications are not an add-on but rather, are integrated into existing courses offered by partnering schools. Today, we are partnering with 617 technical schools and community colleges across the U.S. in offering our certifications.
The curriculum is not only aimed at teaching students and technicians the proper use of tools and equipment, but it also provides training to the instructors as well. As tooling technology continues to evolve, it's imperative that instructors know how to fully maximize these products, and in turn teach students about their use and capabilities. Trade schools need to be at the forefront of innovation and training. Tooling manufacturers regularly host train-the-trainer sessions, where college instructors are invited to learn the latest technologies. In turn, those instructors pass that information onto their students.
Other tooling certifications pertinent to the renewable energy industry include multimeter and tools at height (tethered tools).
Multimeters are one of the most important tools used by wind technicians due to the sophisticated electrical and electronic components and monitoring systems in turbines. This certification teaches the proper way to use meters in relation to turbine maintenance. Since many maintenance jobs within the energy sector take technicians off the ground, learning about different tethering devices—and how to best use them to ensure tool security—is the basis of the tools at height certification.
Tooling certifications are also beneficial to professional technicians as part of their recurring training. These types of certifications work because they represent a level of collaboration between manufacturers, industry and schools, to bring forth an education that students and professionals alike need to possess to be successful on the job. This is the right path moving forward—a path that benefits everyone involved.
Earl Bailey is the National Education Partnerships Co-ordinator for Snap-on Industrial. He can be reached at 405-410-9929; [email protected]. For more information on tooling certifications call (877) 740-1900, or visit https://www.snapon.com/Industrial-Certification