Thursday, February 17, 2011

Greetings From the Top of a Turbine

Wonder what it’s like to climb to the top of a giant wind turbine? Four MWCC employees know. They recently ascended the college’s north turbine as part of a training program MWCC received from turbine manufacturer Vestas.

Bob LaBonte, vice president of finance and administration; Bill Swift, director of maintenance and mechanical systems; electrician Norm Boudreau; and HVAC mechanic George Couillard climbed rung by rung up a 250-plus foot ladder on the inside of the turbine to reach the nacelle, then took turns peering out through a hatch. Naturally, Swift made the most of the opportunity and crawled outside to stand on top of the nacelle to take a bunch of photos.

“The view from the top was spectacular,” Swift remarked after the excursion. “We were lucky we had great weather, so you could see really far. I wasn’t nervous. I would definitely do it again. It was phenomenal.”

In preparing the employees for the ascent, Vestas technical trainer Bill Fulkerson offered this analogy: “Think about climbing a ladder to the roof of your house – 25 times.” Fortunately, platforms at several levels allowed the crew to stop for mini-breaks during the climb, which took about a half-hour. Protective gear kept the crew safe throughout the climb.

In addition to the four employees who took the tour to the top, three other members of the facilities department also participated in the two-day training session held Feb. 10 and 11 at the college – Joe L’Etoile, John Femino and Dan Bosworth. Due to limited space inside the nacelle, not all could make the climb.

Labonte said the experience was something he never envisioned would be part of a day’s work when he embarked on a career in finance.

“I like the whole technology of it and how it operates,” Boudreau said following the training. “It’s impressive.”

Once the turbines begin running in early March, Vestas will handle virtually all of the maintenance needs. The MWCC employees were trained to ensure that the college has a solid overview of how the system operates and to assist Vestas “as a set of eyes” on site, Fulkerson explained.
Photos by Bill Swift, Dana Armstrong & Kim Anderson

Bill, Bob, Norm, George and Vestas trainer Bill prior to the ascent
250-plus rungs!
Norm climbing up...
...And reaching the top!
George takes in the view...
And so does Bob!
Bill ventures on top of the nacelle to take photos

MWCC's Gardner campus covered in snow

Snow-covered solar panels waiting for spring thaw

MWCC's south turbine
A turbine under construction nearby at NCCI
Mount Monadnock

Our Sustainability Makeover

Check out this video by Sustainable Step New England. They thought our green efforts were cool enough to come interview our President and Executive Vice President Emeritus and get a tour of our various green facilities.

This video was filmed last summer prior to turbine construction and was recently posted to SSNE's website.

Friday, February 4, 2011