Have you ever seen a wind turbine and wondered how in the world people keep them in good condition? Well, simple: they climb the dang things.
A few months ago, Tom Scott climbed one of Octopus Energy’s wind turbines in the UK. This wasn’t a luxury trip, however. After climbing the 50-meter tall ladder installed inside, Tom would leave through the emergency exit on top and descend back down to Earth.
Climbing the wind turbine is a lot safer than you think it is. On the way up, maintenance workers strap themselves to what Tom calls a “fall-arrest system.” At the crux of this system is a fixed steel cable that runs along the length of the wind turbine. Workers strap themselves to the cable with a special metal slider that follows them as they climb the ladder. If the person suddenly falls, the slider locks into place, preventing him/ her from hitting the ground or anyone below them.
Blade technician Ben Hayes explained that there are a bunch more fail-safes set in place to prevent workers from falling. To keep everything checked, they are required to use the emergency exit at the top once every two years.
It’s also handy that maintenance workers undergo a good amount of training before even being allowed to access the wind turbine. Couple that with extensive bi-yearly medical check-ups and there’s no way you’re going to be able to climb up a turbine without the proper training or physical condition.
Once at the top, Tom looked at the electromagnets powering the turbine before popping the hatch on top for an amazing view. Then, after mustering up his courage, he attached himself to the emergency harness and slowly climbed down.
As he was descending, you could see Tom did not have to put in any effort at all. That’s because the emergency exit is meant to allow people who can’t climb down the ladder to reach the bottom with ease. This can be helpful if one of the workers encounters an injury or some other unfortunate event. If the person can’t get down the normal way, they simply attach themselves to a descender and float down.
And that’s it! There is no giant elevator that brings maintenance workers to the top; just that good, old 50-meter ladder and, of course, the optional descender. That being said, in any case things get hairy, workers of Octopus Energy always have the option to make their way down in the most exciting way!