Scottish offshore wind sector will generate 28,000 new jobs for the region by 2020 and a chunk of these will go to IT professionals. The report, jointly produced by Scottish Renewables and Scottish Enterprise, paints a bright picture for the country’s alternative energy industry - and for programmers with the right skills. By Helen Beckett [Published 03/09/2010]
Even for programmers with the preferred languages of C++ and Fortran, it’s advisable to enrol on a basic course in the industry basics, recommends Tom Hopkinson, managing director and founder of Scottish recruitment firm, Taylor Hopkinson. The good news is that these courses are generally both affordable and short.
For programmers adept in and with an understanding of how to apply these to the industry, there are opportunities springing up in five key areas, says Hopkinson.
SCADA: Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition systems consist of two parts: the control devices that are embedded in the plant plus the onshore supervisory system. The onshore data centre monitors and instructs all the wind turbine processes and collates data about the outputs. Scada systems are used in infrastructure, facilities or industrial plants, and experience here can be transferred to the smarter systems being developed in the wind industry.
Programmable logic controllers: Electronic devices are embedded in the turbines and the data read and manipulated in on shore data centres. They control the speed and direction of turbine and the pitch of the blade to ensure maximum energy production. Generally programmed in C++ and Fortran, the programming is technical and would suit coders adept in manufacturing and in safety-critical systems.
Smart grids: Software has to be written, tuned and maintained, which enables the energy consumption of households to be measured and logged. On the residential side, each house is kitted out with a circuit board with its own IP address which communicates with the power grid across the Internet. The central piece is the collection and analysis of the information and subsequent instruction to the relevant wind farm whether to produce more or less energy, depending on local household demand.
Communications software: The construction of smart grid and metering of houses will require sophisticated communications that enables the Internet to communicate through the power grid. Would suit experienced network engineers and architects down to the ground.
Visual impact analysis: Every wind farm built onshore requires planning permission and this in turn hinges on building a visual computer simulation of the farm. Planners and other interested parties can virtually view the proposed wind farm from different towns in the vicinity and perspectives in the immediate area. IT pros with experience in computer games and also computer-aided manufacturing packages are in the frame for this kind of work.
Further research published this year also gives the Scottish IT sector the thumbs-up: more than 1,000 IT graduates will be recruited this year according to the Scottish Technology Industry Survey. 63% of Scottish IT companies interviewed said they would hire more people this year.
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