Why Wind Energy Project Manager Is a Smart Career Choice
As the U.S. renewable energy industry ramps up construction of onshore and offshore wind energy projects, project managers find themselves in high demand with job opportunities throughout much of the country.
In 2021, the Biden administration announced a target for 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and set goals to approve 16 project plans. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the USA could potentially install a total of 86,000 MW of offshore projects alone by 2050, resulting in the creation of thousands of new jobs in wind energy development.
As more onshore and offshore projects begin to receive federal approval, professionals that are experienced and skilled in the ramp up and execution of projects will be sought after. Project management increasingly becomes one of the most desirable careers in the renewable energy space.
Priscilla Chavez, Executive Consultant at Progressive, says, “With the rapid expansion of offshore and onshore wind projects, there is a great need for Project Managers with capital utility experience. Because of the industry's infancy, these candidates can join an exciting industry and pave the way in creating an inexhaustible source of energy."
What does a wind energy project manager do?
The Wind Energy Project Manager will often serve as the single point of responsibility for accomplishing project objectives. Ultimately, the wind energy project manager has three main goals:
✔️ To keep the project within budget
✔️ To keep the project on schedule
✔️ To ensure quality and conformance to specifications
To achieve these goals, project managers need to be familiar with virtually all aspects of wind development, including:
- Site selection
- Environmental studies
- Permitting processes
- Transportation of turbine parts
- Construction of wind turbines
Project managers will lead teams through several phases of a wind project, from acquisition to pre-construction, but some wind energy project managers might also manage project construction. During the construction phase, a wind energy project manager may split time between working in an office and on site. While on site, the project manager will supervise the work of subcontractors to ensure quality and that the turbines are operating to specifications.
Project managers might also be involved in negotiating agreements, such as tax savings, contracts to buy the wind power generated, or land use.
Project managers are often employed under contract and by larger construction companies, landowners, or staffing and recruitment companies like Progressive.
What education and skills are needed to become a wind energy project manager?
Wind energy project managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in construction management, engineering, or an equivalent study. Some roles may also require a master’s degree. The courses that project managers must take will introduce them to how power projects are planned, developed, and executed.
In addition to the many technical skills that you will learn during your academic career, wind energy project managers will also need to be proficient in several soft skills, including:
- Leadership – an effective project manager will be fluent in rallying everyone to reach goals.
- Communicating and listening – a project manager that is open and honest will create an environment where other team members will feel comfortable opening up as well. Listening to your team members in these moments creates mutual trust.
- Conflict Management – conflicts are unavoidable. Project managers need to have the skills to navigate these situations to ensure everyone feels heard so that all parties can come to a mutually beneficial solution.
- Organization – a wind energy project has many moving parts which is why the best project managers can keep track of a multitude of tasks while ensuring on-time completion.
- Time Management – delays on a project can be costly, which is why making sure that you and your team are staying on top of deadlines is a vital skill.
According to Miguel Reyes, Wind Project Engineer at Siemens Gamesa, "Being on site helps you develop technical skills and more in-depth knowledge about your craft, but it's the soft skills like leadership, communication, and teamwork that can really help you thrive in your career."
What is the salary outlook for a wind energy project manager?
According to the job board site Indeed, which creates salary estimates based on reports from employees with similar jobs, employer postings for similar jobs, and salary information from the location of the job, wind energy project managers can easily command a six-figure annual salary. In states like California where the cost of living is considerably higher than other states, you wouldn’t have to look far to find jobs paying anywhere from $130K to $150K a year.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics is also a great resource for determining current salary data. According to the BLS, “managers, all other”—a grouping that includes project managers—these professionals earned a median annual income of $116,350 as of May 2020 with jobs in the field projected to increase 7 percent from 2020 to 2030.
With demand projected to accelerate and attractive earnings potential, becoming a wind energy project manager is a smart career choice.
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