May 30, 2017
Making a career change is no easy task, but for those who are interested in working with technologies such as a PLC or SCADA systems, the renewable energies sector may be something worth examining. For instance, wind energy is growing by leaps and bounds in Canada and around the world, becoming a reliable and cost-competitive source of electricity for homes and businesses everywhere.
Indeed, Germany recently made headlines by making total use of renewable sources of electricity, including solar and wind technologies. Power prices actually dropped below zero over the course of several 15-minute periods in one day. This phenomenon is undoubtedly set to repeat itself in the years to come, which is why the renewables sector deserves the interest of anybody looking to work with PLCs or renewable energy.
Renewable energy can be created through a variety of different ways, with technologies including everything from solar power to hydroelectricity. Though it may sound odd, wind is actually classified as a form of solar energy, as it is generated by a combination of different factors including the atmosphere being unevenly heated by the sun.
In order to generate electricity, wind turbines move in the air, using wind to power up a generator that then creates electricity. Today, there are horizontal-axis wind turbines and vertical-axis wind turbines. Horizontal-axis turbines are much more commonly found than their vertical-axis counterparts. Either way, they both produce clean, renewable sources of electricity, and are both efficient and eco-friendly.
PLC programming, SCADA and the energy industry
Turbine technology must be maintained by somebody, and that somebody must have sufficient knowledge of PLC programming (“Programmable Logic Controllers” programming), and be comfortable working with SCADA systems. SCADA stands for “Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition”. In sum, PLCs are the hardware, whereas SCADA systems are the software. Both are needed in order to store information and provide feedback to an operator in order to ensure that wind turbines are operating correctly and are not at risk of failure.
A good PLC programmer can find work on a wind farm, maintaining and servicing wind turbines by working with PLCs and SCADA systems. Tasks might include temperature testing and pitch battery tests. Testing plays a very important role in wind turbine maintenance, and SCADA systems provide critical information to technicians warning them of events such as sensor failure. Without proper maintenance, expensive equipment can quickly break down, leading to high-cost repairs and a disruption in service. As such, technicians keep watch over all the turbines as a whole, as well as each one an individual level.
Training for the future
If the renewables sector seems like a tempting career route, then it is important to take on the appropriate training in order to become qualified and to gain the desirable skills that employers seek when hiring good employees. There are many paths to choose from, however colleges that offer certificates through online technology courses may be of particular worth to those looking into make a career transition, as such courses are flexible and allow students to work at their own pace. Flexibility is a particularly important feature, given that many people in a career-transition phase tend to work and study at the same time. Traditional classrooms simply cannot accommodate the needs of every single student, and therefore do not offer the same scheduling leeway as online technology courses.
Whether or not one has a particular affinity for renewable sources of energy, anyone aspiring to become an Automation Technician will find themselves well-placed to begin their new careers in any one of various industries, so long as they seek out the appropriate training. With knowledge of PLC programming skills and a familiarity with SCADA systems, students with the proper certificate from an accredited college can prove to their employers that they are work-ready. As automation brings industrialization into a new world, workers with knowledge of PLC programming will be needed to properly oversee and maintain important equipment in the renewable energies sector and beyond.