A pilot programme will be rolled out in Wyoming next month, with hands-on training potentially starting at a Goldwind project in Montana in the early autumn, said Goldwind Americas CEO David Halligan.
After that, the programme may be expanded to Texas. "We have the need for technicians and we have the training. It's a win-win situation," Halligan said at AWEA Windpower 2017. "We hire local people, so [the initiative] made sense to me."
Halligan says that coal miners should prove to have skills that are relevant to the wind industry — they are used to working in difficult conditions and they have electrical and manual skills. And they need jobs.
Wyoming and Texas have fossil fuel-based economies and have become relatively depressed as coal is phased out and as the price of oil has plummeted.
Wyoming was also chosen because Goldwind has a conditional agreement for 1.87GW in turbines for early-stage Viridis Eolia projects in Carbon County, Wyoming, where the state's first coal mine opened 100 years ago. Goldwind also owns, or has agreed to buy, 320MW of in-development wind projects in central Texas.
In March, Donald Trump announced an executive order to review Obama's Clean Power Plan. Flanked by coal miners, he had said: "My administration is putting an end to the war on coal."
Economists are agreed that, in America, coal jobs are fast disappearing as the industry becomes automated and as coal become too high risk in a climate-conscious world.
According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the job category has been growing by 108% from 2014 to 2024, notes Khianti Silver, director of human resources at AWEA, speaking at Windpower 2017.
The country's second fastest growing is occupational therapist, though that will only grow by 43% by 2024.
BLS also estimates that the average US wind technician makes $52,000 yearly.