With a “high” unemployment rate, many people are scrambling to find a job. Whether you or someone you know is hunting for work or simply considering a different career path, turbine maintenance is not only challenging, it is guaranteed to have you reaching for the stars.
Combining climbing and caving techniques with green technology, specialized rope access technicians, also called rope specialists, utilize their techniques to inspect, clean and repair wind turbines, reports the New York Times. According to rope-based service provider Ropeworks, “Rope access technicians descend, ascend and traverse ropes for access and work while suspended by a harness or a work seat. For years, these fearless workers scaled the likes of oil rigs, skyscrapers, bridges and mountain cliffs. But today, rope access technicians are keeping our green technology in good working order.
Like most mechanical products, wind turbines require maintenance and repair from time-to-time. And with thousands of wind turbines currently in production in the United States, keeping those turbines blowing in the wind is paramount. Inclement weather, ice buildup and bird strikes can cause damage to the giant fiberglass blades. Tower and blade maintenance includes weather caulking, painting, dent removal, blade cleaning and crack repairs, to name a few. When turbines are not functioning properly or have to be shut down, dollars are wasted.
While no one has been seriously injured or killed on the job, there are risks. Lightning, high winds and bad weather, can shorten a workday. Extreme heat and cold can lead to dehydration or hypothermia. For safety reasons, rope access technicians work in pairs.
Although liability and insurance can be problematic, some small rope companies are embracing wind turbine work. In fact, some companies specialize solely in wind turbine gigs. In 1998, environmentalist Chris Bley met two climbers that changed his life. On a climb in Joshua Tree National Park, Robert Jatkowski and Frank Seltenheim were offering their climbing skills to companies who required work at hard-to-reach heights. Bley was so inspired by their work, he founded Rope Partner.
As the need for wind energy grows, the demand for these specialized workers will most likely grow as well. If you love the outdoors, don’t have a fear of heights, appreciate a spectacular view and are passionate about climbing, visit the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) and the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT). And be sure to read the TriplePundit.com series on careers in wind farm development.