After seven months of intense training, 18 young South Africans graduated from the internationally recognised Wind Turbine Service Technician programme, in Cape Town, on Thursday, which also happened to be Global Wind Day.
Five of the seven months of training were spent at the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (Saretec) in Cape Town, with the remaining two months spent doing practical in-service training on a wind farm.
The Wind Turbine Service Technician programme is South Africa’s first formal qualification in the wind sector and offers intake to students with a minimum of an NQF Level 4 qualification.
Saretec director Naim Rassool said at the ceremony the centre aimed to be a global trainer in the rapidly expanding wind energy industry and to benchmark itself with training centres in Europe.
He said Saretec had a progressive organisational culture and worked closely with the industry, including companies like Nordex Group South Africa, which specialises in producing onshore turbines in the 1.5 MW to 3.9 MW class.
Rassool said the face of the industry had changed significantly over the past few years.
“Many of our students from the rural areas are entering a wind energy industry that used to be dominated by European technicians. Now the situation is completely different, with so many local technicians. This is extremely positive.”
Also speaking at the ceremony, South African Wind Energy Association CEO Brenda Martin called on the government to resolve the impasse on the power purchase agreements that form part of bid window four of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.
“The industry is struggling on many fronts. The entire value chain is feeling the effects of this delay,” said Martin, adding that she would be looking forward to a meeting in Parliament next week, which she hoped would spell good news for the renewable energy industry, which had employed 26 000 people over the past four years.
Despite the delay of the power purchase agreements, she encouraged the graduates to adapt and make the most of their training and talents. She said the graduates, who come from backgrounds ranging from aviation and mechanics to the South African navy, would be able to transfer their skills into this new industry.
The graduates said the qualification meant a lot to them.
“Achieving this qualification is a dream come true for me and sets me on my path to make a difference in the wind energy industry. It was rewarding to celebrate all my hard work on Global Wind Day,” said Mvuzo Nkonyeni.
Wind turbine service technicians are responsible for the service, maintenance and repair of wind turbines. They inspect, diagnose, maintain and adjust wind turbines, managing electrical and mechanical wind turbine operations.
Fifteen of the students were supported by Nordex Group South Africa, which is involved in five major wind farms in the Eastern and Western Cape, namely the Dorper, Kouga, Amakhala Emoyeni, Gouda and Gibson Bay wind farms.
Nordex Group has employed five of the graduates fulltime and offered another four extended contracts flowing from the practical training.
“We are delighted to see the hard work of these students pay off. To witness their skills development on the job at one of our five wind projects and now through Saretec is very pleasing. It shows what is possible in an industry that is focused on sustainable job creation,” said Nordex Group South Africa MD Anne Henschel.
Saretec, which is funded by the National Department of Higher Education, has directly and indirectly trained nearly 100 wind turbine service technicians over the past few years.