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Career Spotlight: Insulation and Coatings Technician

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Samuel Weatherwax is an insulation and coatings technician for Calpine Corporation’s geothermal power plant, The Geysers, northeast of San Francisco. Weatherwax started as an apprentice and has now worked at The Geysers for four years. He loves spending most of his workday outside, where he paints, pressure washes, sandblasts, and repairs Calpine’s 15 geothermal power plants. After graduating from high school Weatherwax worked several jobs before a friend helped him land a position at Bottle Rock Power Plant, which helped prepare him for his work at The Geysers.

This video is part of a five-part educational series on Careers in Renewable Energy.

Pre-viewing Questions

  • What do you know about geothermal energy?
  • What are some job that might be needed to operate a geothermal power plant?

Focus Questions for Viewing

  • How does a geothermal power plant generate electricity?
  • What types of activities does Weatherwax work on during his day?
  • What kinds of materials, equipment and technology does Weatherwax need for his work?
  • What was his career path?
  • What are some skills that he learned and developed that helped prepare him for work in this field?
  • What does Weatherwax like most about his job?
  • What personal characteristics does he think are a good fit for this career?

Post-viewing Questions

  • What aspects of this career are most interesting to you?
  • What questions do you still have?

Extension Activity

Have your students create their own renewable energy career spotlight video or narrated slideshow! Research local companies, colleges, and universities for people working in the field who students can contact for an interview. A worksheet with tips for planning interviews, and information about creating narrated slideshows and videos can be found in the Media-Making Toolkit for Science Education.

Links to Learn More

  • Explore Geothermal Careers, U.S. Department of Energy website — Find information on the kinds of jobs available in the geothermal energy industry, classes and training available, and workforce needs.
  • Geothermal Heats Up, QUEST video — Learn about geothermal energy, how it is used to produce electricity, optimal locations for geothermal plants, its benefits and drawbacks, and potential for growth.
  • How an Enhanced Geothermal System Works, U.S. Department of Energy website — Learn how enhanced geothermal systems work with animations from the Geothermal Technologies Office.
  • Geothermal Maps, National Renewable Energy Laboratory website — Find maps that show favorable sites for geothermal projects, current and planned geothermal power generation capacity, and geothermal plants that are operating or in development.

NGSS Correlations

  • Performance Expectation: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios. HS-ESS3-2
  • Disciplinary Core Idea: All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks, as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors. HS-ESS3.A: Natural Resources
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Andrea Aust

About the Author ()

Andrea is the Science Education Manager for KQED. She joined KQED in 2007 to coordinate education and outreach for the public television series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Between working on Ocean Adventures and joining the QUEST team, she developed the educational resources for the 4-hour documentary Saving the Bay. Andrea graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Environmental Science and earned her M.A. in Teaching and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco. Before arriving at KQED, she taught, developed, and managed marine science and environmental education programs in Aspen, Catalina Island and the Bay Area.