I recently met an interesting project manager at a party. Expecting him to be working in banking, insurance or perhaps the healthcare sector, I asked him which of these industries he worked in.
He replied: "I'm in wind power project management".
I was taken by surprise. I guess that in Singapore and many parts of Asia, wind power is still a foreign concept.
It is, however, becoming an important alternative to fossil fuels and is plentiful and renewable. It's also clean, has no greenhouse gas emissions and takes up little physical land space.
In this industry, as I found out from this friend I met, wind power is converted into a useful energy using wind turbines.
These huge turbines make electrical power which are channeled out for normal usage. It's no different from the traditional windmill, used to drive mechanical power to gears or other machines.
Wind power project management is a growing industry
In the wind power world, HUGE wind farms, with many, many wind turbines spin continuously and extract wind energy.
They are typically situated in remote areas and away from cities, and involve a tremendous amount of construction and maintenance.
Having understood the wind power industry, I proceeded to understand what he does day-to-day.
A wind power project manager is similar to a PM in banking and insurance. As I've defined in this article, "project management is the discipline of applying a consistent set of knowledge, tools and techniques to successfully deliver project outcomes".
The same applies to wind power PMs. The difference, of course, is in the nature of the industry and the project content. Here's an overview of what a "wind power project" entails. A wind power PM may do some or all of these aspects of the work.
Site Identification and Assessment - this involves looking for a wind farm site, screening and selection. There will be engineering feasibility studies, as well as site assessments to manage.
Planning and Environmental Approvals - licenses must be obtained and grants / approvals need to be prepared and followed through
Power Delivery Services - electrical grids and related facility studies will need to be carried out, typically with power system operators in the country
Site Design and Layout - with the actual site of the wind farm found, wind turbines need to be selected, civil, electrical and geotechnical engineering works need to be carried out, e.g. foundations, roads, as well as electrical control systems
Financing Support - installing a wind farm is a huge project. Project financing and cost estimes, due diligence reviews may be needed. In some countries, wind power projects are given "credit" by the government for eliminating fossil fuel usage. This process needs to be managed.
Implementation - the wind power PM will also then need to implement and roll out the wind farm. This includes project management, procurement of equipment, constructing the wind farm and deployment.
There are many, many issues that can crop up (just like any project), e.g. weather conditions, land usage problems.
Intrigued by my conversation with this wind power PM, I went home to do some research on my own.
- Have worked in the energy industry, with 5+ years of construction, engineering and project delivery of power plants. Prior wind power plant experience is obviously highly favored. - Have a good engineering design background, in the areas of civil, electrical or geotechnical areas. - Prior experience as a construction site manager is also an asset - Strong working knowledge of planning and getting approvals for the delivery of energy grids for wind farm setup - A basic science degree in Engineering or Construction Management is required
I did a bit of checking around online and found out the following:
I've also discussed salaries of average salaries of a banking project manager and business analysts here. You may want to make a comparison for yourself.
I think this is actually a good line to get into, particularly if you want to break out of traditional project manager in urban areas.
I'd imagine it is so refreshing to go out to a remote area, feel the wind in your face and know that your project managing something that saves Mother Earth from fossil fuel usage.
If you are already a PM but not specialized in wind power, there are a few places to get that specialization.
Apparently, according to my friend, one of the better places is to do it is in this Swedish university
This is a Masters level program and you need a basic degree (on their website it's listed as a "Bachelor of Science (three years of full-time studies) in engineering, science or social science".
It's also an all English program and equips its students with a broad network in the wind power industry, as well as various wind farm project development and management concepts. Graduates of the program go on to
take on various roles in the wind power field, e.g. wind farm operating companies, wind power consulting firms, as well as governments and related supply chain companies.
Great! I hope you now understand a bit more about wind power project management and what it's all about. With the wind power industry growing throughout the world, the need for wind power PMs is set to grow and grow.
It's still a field in its infancy, compared to things like banking and insurance project management - but if you're looking to switch into a more varied or interesting PM field, you may just want to check it out!
That's all I have for now. Until next time, here's wishing you all the best in your project management endeavors!
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