Career Map: Mechanical Engineer

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Mechanical Engineer

Position TitleMechanical Engineer
Alternate Title(s)Project Engineer, Quality Engineer, Research Engineer, Design Engineer, Sales Engineer
Education & Training LevelAdvanced, Bachelor’s degree required, prefer graduate degree
Education & Training Level DescriptionMechanical engineers need a bachelor’s degree. A graduate degree is typically needed for promotion into advanced or managerial positions. 
Brief job description Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. There are many different applications of a mechanical engineer’s skills in the wind industry, but they generally research, design, develop, and test tools, machines, and mechanical devices. Mechanical engineers work on wind turbine siting, components and systems, contributing to performance optimization and cost reductions for project developers, manufacturing and operation companies.
Preferred Level of EducationBachelor’s degree
Preferred Level of ExperienceSee the Bureau of Labor Statistics for more information.
Estimated/Expected SalarySee the Bureau of Labor Statistics for more information.
Job Profile

There are many different applications of a mechanical engineer’s skills in the wind industry, but they generally research, design, develop, and test tools, machines, and mechanical devices. They also perform wind resource assessments for siting. Their work contributes to performance optimization and cost reductions for project developers, manufacturing and operation companies.

In general, mechanical engineers use their training to do the following:

  • Analyze problems to see how a mechanical device or process might help solve the problem
  • Design or redesign mechanical devices, creating blueprints so the device can be built.
  • Develop prototypes of devices and test the prototypes
  • Analyze the test results and change the design as needed
  • Oversee the manufacturing processes and other staff for quality control.

In the wind industry, mechanical engineers work across each sector to provide technical expertise and support, ensuring continuous improvements in the research, design, production, installation, operation and maintenance of the mechanical products, equipment, systems and processes of a wind turbine or wind plant.

During project development, mechanical engineers often consult with project developers and engineers, reviewing site characteristics, suggesting possible turbines or helping find solutions to other project issues that arise. They may help project developers and engineers to identify project performance requirements, estimate costs and contribute to developing bids for potential projects.
In the component manufacturing sector, they may be employed as a mechanical engineer or in a specialized field of mechanical engineering such as composites, selecting optimal materials for wind turbine blades or other components; structures,  designing wind turbine  towers for land-based and offshore applications; or reliability, analyzing and redesigning products to improve performance and durability. Their work may focus on wind turbine components and structures, but they may also be involved in developing tools and machines used in the manufacture of wind turbines.

Prior to the construction of a wind farm, mechanical engineers may work on wind turbine resource assessment, siting, construction and commissioning. Once construction begins, they oversee the installation of wind turbines to ensure that they are assembled properly and functioning according to specifications prior to turbine and wind plant commissioning. 

During construction, they might design and implement lifting plans for cranes, conduct transportation studies for component delivery, perform verification of installation of turbine components, and they test installation equipment. They also create quality control procedures for installation of turbine components in coordination with the original equipment manufacturer.

During the operational phase of the wind plant, mechanical engineers may work for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or the operating company, ensuring that individual wind turbines and the entire wind plant continue to operate and perform according to specifications. They establish or coordinate the maintenance or service schedule as wells as enforce safety procedures and coordinate the supply of materials required to maintain machines or equipment in the prescribed condition. When issues arise, mechanical engineers may be required to investigate the issue, troubleshoot and identify the root cause and work with the manufacturer or customer to resolve the issue. Mechanical Engineers also oversee Wind Technician work on repairs and maintenance.

Mechanical engineers may be responsible for the following:

  • Conduct research that tests or analyzes the feasibility, design, operation, or performance of equipment, wind turbine components or systems
  • Develop and test models of alternate designs and processing methods to assess feasibility, operating condition effects, possible new applications and necessity of modification
  • Estimate the time and cost required to complete projects
  • Generate specifications, read and interpret blueprints, technical drawings, schematics, or computer-generated reports for mechanical components in wind turbines
  • Identify, review and recommend necessary modifications to ensure product conforms to engineering design and performance specifications
  • Develop, coordinate, or monitor all aspects of production, including selection of manufacturing methods, fabrication, or operation of product designs, ensuring optimal manufacturability of wind turbine components
  • Perform wind resource assessments during the siting process
  • Arrange transportation of turbine components
  • Coordinate crane lifting planning
  • Execute turbine installation verification
  • Troubleshoot design or component problems during operations phase
  • Conduct root cause failure analysis and develop solutions to address any production or product malfunctions or issues
  • Establish and maintain customer or vendor relationships
  • Supervise workers, technicians and other engineers.
Job Skills
  • Analytical skills. Mechanical engineers must be able to analyze testing results, operations data and other issues, identifying the root cause of the issue and recommending solutions, ensuring equipment availability and reliability.
  • Communication skills. Mechanical engineers must communicate issues concerning wind turbine production and operations to management, clarify field issues with operations personnel as well as write reports and procedure manuals. They should also be able to effectively present information and respond to questions from groups of managers, clients, customers, and the general public.
  • Creativity. Mechanical engineers design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery, often developing innovate approaches and solutions to projects and issues.
  • Interpersonal skills. Mechanical engineers work across departments within their organization as well as establish and maintain relationships with customers and suppliers.
  • Math skills. Mechanical engineers understand the principals of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
  • Mechanical skills. Mechanical skills allow engineers to apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices. Such a background allows engineers to visualize basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes more easily.
  • Problem-solving skills. Mechanical engineers must have the ability to identify issues, analyze data and other relevant information, and developing solutions to problems, reducing the impact to project budgets, timelines, production or operational capabilities.
Resources

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mechanical Engineer

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