Wind farms are a booming business in places like Oklahoma with tons of wind, and high unemployment. There’s only one problem. Not enough technicians trained to keep the big windmills in service. Typically a technician can service 20 windmills. But the pace of deployment is far outstripping the number of technicians and becoming the bottleneck in creating clean energy. There are already 40,000 wind turbines in service and thousands more under construction.
Kevin Bradshaw is training to fill the gap of men willing to climb into the air the length of a football field to cram himself into a tight electrical box and work with deadly levels of voltage. “The climb tires you out, but it’s the best workout you can get. I’m not going to lie, it’s gets scary. It would be a big problem if you didn’t have fear,” he told NPR.
Bradshaw is one of about a dozen students going through the technology center’s four-week turbine maintenance training program. Having a GED or high school diploma is the only prerequisite; aside from being in decent enough physical shape to safely fit in the claustrophobic electrical boxes perched atop the towers. And it’s grueling climbs to dizzying for prospective technicians like Bradshaw.
” You’re working with 120 and 420-voltage, which will kill you. Plain and simple: You don’t know what you’re doing up there, you will die.” says another trainee. “I was in the market to find something else to do, and this seemed pretty exciting. Being 300 feet in the air, that’s pretty exciting in its self. So yeah, I’m a thrill seeker.”