Increasing demand from operators to cut costs combined with rapid growth in U.S. wind has led to contractors facing significant pressure to squeeze labor costs. Wind projects are now at considerable risk of reduced service quality and greater financial losses as a result.

This is according to Harvest, powered by RigUp, developers of the largest U.S. energy marketplace and labor platform, which has highlighted the steps that operators, contractors and technicians urgently need to take in order to mitigate the skill shortage and ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector. This topic is discussed further in RigUp’s latest report ‘Wind’s Talent Crunch’, released today.

The extension of the wind production tax credit in 2015 has led to significant gains in U.S. wind, with over 30 GW added by the end of 2019 and the sector supporting over 120,000 jobs in all 50 states. Rising investor and manufacturer confidence has helped reduce costs to levels competitive with other energy sources, including fossil fuels.

But the increased focus on cost-cutting has exacerbated the pressure on contractors already stretched thin by rising turbine installation and maintenance demands. Many operators, upon seeing technological and material costs fall, have mistakenly assumed that operations and maintenance (O&M) costs can be reduced in tandem. Contractors are subsequently being pushed to cap technician training at lower skill levels, resulting in a shortage of highly qualified technicians despite growing demand for specialist services such as High Voltage.

This lack of highly skilled technicians results in delays to schedules and budgets with operators facing greater asset downtime, financial repercussions and inferior safety standards as a result.

RigUp has emphasized that the sector must prioritize the development of technicians by training core skills and offering career progression to drive up industry standards. By using highly trained technicians in conjunction with performance monitoring software, operators can implement comprehensive predictive maintenance approaches through on-site inspections and remote O&M systems – ultimately reducing costs and maximizing revenue.

Jed Van Sciver, President at Harvest Energy Services, said: “With U.S. wind capacity set to grow at a significantly faster rate than the number of qualified wind turbine technicians, operators urgently need to wake up to the consequences of cost cuts for O&M contractors. Developing highly skilled technicians is crucial to the long-term sustainability of the sector and at RigUp, we can ensure that operators find the right contractor with the right technicians at a fair price.”

To learn more, download the report here.

News item from RigUp

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