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There are more than 65,000 land-based wind turbines in the US. And to keep all that equipment up and running, big companies like GE and Vestas – as well as a host of smaller companies – employ a “legion” of technicians for inspection and maintenance. and repair these giant windmills.
There are nearly 7,000 wind power maintenance technicians in the US by 2020 and the profession is one of the fastest growing occupations tracked by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a projected growth of 68% in new jobs. by 2030. The median base salary for this job is $27 per hour, or $54,000 per year. But overtime (which is extremely common in this profession) and other payments can significantly increase these technicians’ earnings.
Wind tower maintenance is often hard work and a bit lonely.
Andrew Slate is a new wind technician hired by Vestas, with 5 years of industry experience in a variety of roles. He is currently part of a team that specializes in servicing wind farms in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, with some locations having as many as 200 to 400 wind towers.
In a recent interview, Slate shared more about his exciting but equally risky job.
What is the role of a wind tower maintenance technician?
Slate said he only had to report to the area manager and created his own working group with one of his cousins. His team will move from one wind farm to another in the area, but sometimes also have to move to neighboring states if other groups need help.
Sometimes, repairing or inspecting a wind tower takes only 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the nature of the repair. But if complex maintenance tasks like changing gears are required, it can take anywhere from three days to a week and depends on the crane company, wind speed and weather. In general, there are many factors that influence the completion of a particular job.
However, the working environment is airy with a panoramic view.
What does a typical workday look like?
“I wake up at 5 a.m. to be on site by 7 a.m.,” Slate said.
He would then attend the first safety meeting each morning to watch out for any new or potential threats to the day’s work. These factors are mainly dangerous weather, lightning, or even wasps nesting in the tower.
Once he knew what he was going to do for the day, Slate would load the truck and hit the road. Each team will always have two people at a tower no matter what, just in case someone needs to be rescued if they get into a dangerous situation.
On a great day, the technicians usually get the job done around 3 or 4 pm. But on a really bad day, they can stay there until 11pm, which is equivalent to working 18 hours straight.
Why does this job often have to work late?
Wind towers are always a big investment, and customers want them to have an efficient rate of operation. If a network has 54 towers and they are rated for efficiency at 2 megawatts each, developers typically want 95% to 97% of those 54 towers to stay at peak production.
If the operation or maintenance companies don’t work to meet the set goals, they could lose the contract at that site and another large company will immediately jump in to take care of the maintenance for the site. this area.
Employers will ask you to go on a hike before making a hiring decision.
What are the physical challenges of this job?
Before they can be hired, candidates will be given freelancing with about 18 to 22 kg of equipment included, including harnesses, fall protection systems and some other things you can must carry with you.
Freestyle climbing can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, but with climbing aids, the Slate takes an average of 6 minutes to complete.
In actual work, wind power towers are usually about 90 meters high. Not to mention in the summer, the outdoor temperature can be quite hot, up to about 49 or 54 degrees Celsius.
Do you love this job?
“I know people who started it 15 years ago and never thought about changing jobs until they retired.” Slate said.
However, he also said that often having to move and drive on the road for too long will affect mental health. But the technicians will be addicted and crave the high views, as well as the feeling of their adrenaline spikes whenever they stand at the top. And most of all, this job pays pretty well.
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