Wind Energy: A Technology & Industry Primer


Since the first wind plants over thirty years ago, there have been scarce educational and training opportunities for those considering work in the wind industry. The California Wind Energy Collaborative hopes to support the industry by meeting the classroom needs of the technicians, operators, engineers, and administrators of tomorrow’s wind plants and business offices. The course detailed here is nominally for technicians but is appropriate for business office personnel, decision makers, or anyone seeking a better understanding of the technology and science driving the wind industry.


Given over two full days, Wind Energy: A Technology & Industry Primer provides a comprehensive, technical foundation for those currently working or considering future work in the wind industry. Instead of replacing or duplicating on-the-job training, this course augments it by focusing on core fundamentals that traditionally aren’t covered, including aerodynamics, structural loads, and the engineering of power electronics and control systems. Topics such as grid integration of wind energy, environmental issues, and design of modern wind turbines will also be discussed. We believe that understanding these fundamental topics makes better technicians who are more aware in their working environment and more invested in their industry.

Basic prior knowledge of the wind industry or with wind turbines and electrical systems is assumed. However, this course is also appropriate for anyone seeking a better understanding of wind energy.

Date and Location

No classes are currently scheduled.


The course is structured into the fourteen sessions outlined below. The sessions are taught by experts from industry and academia. Instructors include Mike Behnke (BEW Engineering, a DNV Company), Kevin Jackson (Dynamic Design Engineering), Eric Jacobson (Pacificos Energy), C.P. van Dam (UC Davis), and Rob Kamisky (UC Davis). Fifteen minute breaks are scheduled between each session, with a one hour break at midday for lunch. Lunch will be provided. Each student will receive a reader that includes the material presented in the course.

The completion of this course does not make you a certified technician. You must be present to receive the reader material.


Talks will begin at 8:00am. The order of the presentations is subject to change. Please check back periodically for updates. You can view the sample agenda here.

Curriculum Details

Each topic will be addressed in a straightforward manner, with an emphasis on practical information, examples, and illustrations. A brief summary of each topic is given below.

Introduction and History
The history of wind utilization is reviewed to develop an understanding of the different types of machines that have been developed to harness the wind, and how wind technology evolved from early medieval windmills and water pumps to modern utility scale turbines.

Wind Characteristics and Resource Assessment
An introduction to meteorology as it pertains to wind turbines will be presented. This includes topics such average wind speed versus gusts, turbulence and how the wind behaves in mountainous terrain. How anemometers measure wind and maintenance of common meteorological equipment will be discussed.

This topic explores how the wind interacts with a turbine rotor to turn a generator. Basic concepts such as lift and drag of an airfoil, and the amount of energy available in the wind will be considered. Pitch versus stall regulation of rotor speed will be discussed, as well as items such as the effect of blade contamination on rotor performance.

Structures and Loads
The source and magnitude of the structural loads on the different components of a wind turbine will be explored, from the rotor to the foundation. Both steady and cyclical forces will be considered, as well as concepts such as resonance, gyroscopic forces, and the sizing of wind turbine system components.

Operation and Maintenance
This hour will explore the engineering rationale behind maintenance procedures and will include a look at the tools used for plant and wind turbine operation and performance analysis.

Safety and Training
This hour will introduce site safety topics and also give an overview of other wind energy training options.

Electrical Systems
The electrical path from the generator to the power grid will be explained, including generation of electricity, power conditioning and conversion, SCADA, transformers, and high voltage connections. The interaction between the power grid and a turbine’s generator, and phenomenon such as turbine overspeed when disconnected from the grid will be discussed.

Grid Integration
With the cost of wind energy going down, more and larger wind plants are going up. This hour looks at the most contentious issues confronting the growth of the wind industry today: how wind generated electricity fits in with the rest of the electrical grid and the issues that keep grid operators up at night as they try to keep our lights on.

Environmental and Site Issues
Protecting equipment from wildlife, and wildlife from equipment, will be discussed including birds. The permitting process for a California wind farm will be explored, as well as issues such as noise and visual impacts of turbines. Issues such as exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR), aviation lighting requirements and lightning protection will be included.


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to e-mail


The California Wind Energy Collaborative is a partnership of the University of California and the California Energy Commission. This course is supported by the Energy Commission’s PIER program.