Iowa's Toughest Jobs: Wind Turbine Technician - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa's Toughest Jobs: Wind Turbine Technician

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FRANKLIN CO. (KWWL) - One of Iowa's toughest jobs is part of a burgeoning industry in Iowa - harnessing wind energy. Iowa is second in the country in wind generation and more and more wind farms are being built. That means more wind turbines - and someone has the tall task of maintaining and servicing those structures. That's where NewsChannel 7's Bob Waters stepped in.

 The first order of business at the Whispering Willow Wind Farm in Franklin County is inside for safety training and a look at how Alliant Energy monitors operations. Then, site manager Steve Gilbert brings us outside to explain the job.

"In most power plants, you have maintenance technicians, mechanics, electrical technicians, instrument techs, all of those crafts are rolled into one and we call it a wind technician," said Gilbert.

Alex Ascherl prepares Bob for what's ahead.

"It's definitely a good climb. You'll feel it when you get up there. You see everything. Make sure you wear your proper PP and always tie off and you're in good hands with us," said Ascherl.

"PP" means personal protection - not something else!.

So Bob clipS in, grabs his hard hat and safety glasses.

Turbines are turned off when technicians go in and they always go in teams. Safety is the top priority especially when the climb is long - and straight up. Part of the job is torquing the hundreds of bolts that can loosen over the course of time.

"The main part of our job is services. Touching every bolt, making sure all the fluids are right, changing filters, cleaning, inspections, fixing," said technician Max Koster.

Then more climbing - straight up - to the top. That's where tyler mitchell is there to meet us - he's fast.

"So you did really good. 'Thank you.' As far as I know. 'I was up there like lightning so I appreciate your expertise.' 4 minutes probably. 'Did you have a watch or was that a mental clock? 'Yeah, I could just tell.' So are you nervous about your job because I'm so quick?' We have a lot of opening so I hope I'm not pushed out," said Mitchell.

The view is definitely a big perk of the job.

"Here we are. I've clipped myself in so that I don't fall off. Thank goodness for that. We are 26 stories high in the air. I'm not going to do this but the technicians climb over an open space that connects the tower to the blades and the engine that runs the generation here so they can climb into that hatch to work on things there. I'm not going to try that but I'm certainly glad I'm here on a nice blue sky sunny day with relatively light winds. Any other wind condition I don't think I would be so brave but it's certainly beautiful," said Bob Waters.

Technicians say there are times when they can't see the ground due to fog or weather conditions. That's when they see only other turbines. The trip down is much easier and quicker. Though, Bob still has problems with the workings of the clip.

Technicians at Whispering Willow are employed by Vestas - the contractor that maintains the turbines. The farm is owned and run by Alliant Energy. The companies say they're always looking for more technicians and many community colleges in Iowa are currently offering or considering offering courses.

Online Anchor/ReporterBob Waters

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