Friday, June 21, 2013

Mending the wind turbine

click photo to enlarge
The theoretical output of a wind farm does not equal the actual output. Anyone who lives in the vicinity of a site with multiple turbines will know that frequently, while most of them spin and generate their electricity, one or two stand stationary, unco-operative, almost looking like they are sulking and refusing to join in. It's at these times that you see a van parked at the base of the sullen turbine, the entry door at the tower base open, with a worker inside persuading it to join its comrades in making their joint effort at energy generation.

However, sometimes the fault is of a nature that requires more than tinkering with the innards of the beast: the problem resides high up in a location that can only be accessed from the outside. In these circumstances workers with a climber's skills in abseiling are called upon. One recent morning I was cycling in the sunshine past a wind farm when I noticed a cable like a long, slender thread, hanging from the top of a motionless turbine. There was not one but THREE vans parked at its base. Clearly a three van problem was no ordinary hitch. I stopped and looked up at the hub and as I did so noticed the head of a man appear. He slowly worked his way round to the front of the turbine and began to abseil down the vertical blade. At that moment a second man appeared and followed him down, but on the opposite side.

A photo opportunity such as this was too good to miss so I took out my compact camera and began firing off shots. Whatever problem needed resolving was one that required a long rod with a piece of strong, bent wire on the end because that appeared to be the main implement being used. With movements that varied between balletic grace and the shuffling awkwardness of a spider with a few missing legs, the men moved down the turbine blade to its very tip. Then, their work presumably completed, they lowered themselves the still not inconsiderable distance to the ground. As I reviewed my shots and got back on my bicycle ready to make my way home I noticed that the company name on the side of the men's van included the name "ibex" and a picture of that wild goat of the mountains. Pedalling along the drove road it occurred to me that, on the basis of what I had seen, some type of arachnid might be a more appropriate animal to advertise their undoubted skills.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 37.1mm (100mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On