Rock climbers are built with a love for being outdoors, a spirit for adventure, an appreciation for heights, and are often less deterred by various weather conditions. These are the exact personality traits needed to climb 300-foot tall wind turbines.
The same types of people who love to rock climb usually find they have greater job satisfaction if they are doing physical work, especially when they can be outside in a more natural setting. Jobs that are seasonal, temporary, on demand, or require traveling to different sites often appeal to the adventure seekers. Not all turbine technician jobs are traveling jobs and, like everything in life, there are pros and cons to working on site consistently or fulfilling as-needed jobs.
Companies like Rope Partner connect wind farms that are in need of extra staff with employees who are willing to travel to various locations across the globe. They make all the arrangements with the company for the completion of the job including pay, per diem, transportation, and housing accommodations.
An article written in Outside Magazine explains, “The majority [of climbers] string together side jobs that barely cover rent but allow them to climb when they please. Then there are climbers like Eric ‘Rudy’ Ruderman, who discovered the secret to building a career is to get more creative with what you climb.”
Ruderman says Rope Partner called to see if he would like a job, “This sounds cliché, but I was living out of my van, climbing in Bishop, and thinking about going to Europe when I got the call.”
Ruderman says he’s working May-October about 70-80 hours a week and taking the rest of the year off to travel.
The article continues, “Ruderman says 90 percent of what he fixes is lightning damage. Turbine towers are between 250 and 300 feet tall, on average. Technicians climb a ladder inside the tower and anchor ropes. Then they rappel off the nose cone and secure themselves to the blunt side of the wind turbine blade, taking precautions not to get in the way of the sharp side, which could cut the rope. They’re often working in high winds with power tools. ‘We’re basically doing construction work at height on ropes,’ Ruderman says. ‘Safety is crucial.’ Every job is performed by a team of two or more, with one person usually staying lower down to manipulate the blades and haul up supplies.”
Another climber is Jessica Kilroy, a Rope Access technician who also works for Rope Partner said she heard about the job through friends who wanted to put their climbing skills to good use. In this article Kilroy explains,
“When you’re up on a tower, you have a main rope and a backup. In my opinion, this is safer than driving to work every day. For some jobs, you can be up there from six to eight hours, so you have to train your body to work in high winds. Even on a low-wind day you’ll get bucked around, since you’re up really high. And you have to be careful, because one side of the wind turbine blade is so sharp that it could cut your rope. Blades are tricky—they have many layers, and each turbine’s blades are different, so you’ll often be on the phone with the engineers while up in the air.”
You can read more about Kilroy’s experience here and watch video clips of her experiences here and below.
You can also read other stories about adventure seekers Jared Bryant, who was a Rock Climbing and Canyoneering Instructor or Jason Davis, who was a Sea Kayak Guide and featured in a story on patagonia.com before becoming wind turbine technicians.
For more information on how you can turn your passion into a profession, please contact us or fill out the form to the right. Our Wind Turbine Technician Program is only 6-months long and will train/prepare you for your new climbing career.