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Letterkenny team the ‘AA of Wind’

by RES | Oct 22, 2019 | Reading time: 2 min

A team of specialist engineers are earning a reputation as the ‘AA of the wind industry’ having completed some significant major component exchanges on large scale wind turbines.

RES’ O&M team in Letterkenny can count some of the largest utility companies and renewable fund managers among their client-base, with their small core team of just six people servicing turbines across Ireland and UK with additional site-based technicians performing routine maintenance across sites in both countries.

Now looking to expand their operations as the fleet of onshore wind turbines continues to grow, the team leader, Brian McDaid, said the job certainly gives his employees a unique perspective.

“The turbines we climb tend to be over 100m,” he said. “Whilst this makes for a challenging work environment, some of the views are absolutely spectacular – and that alone can make the job one of the best in the world.

“On occasion, on those cool, still days, I’ve even climbed above the clouds on a turbine. It’s a stunning sight.”

And the job itself is one that keeps on changing. As well as servicing and repairing crucial components inside each of the multiple turbines they will service per year, the team has completed many complex lifting operations – all of which requires huge cranes to fit or replace crucial components.

“The mind does boggle sometimes at the scale of what we do. For example, if we have to fit a blade, we will take deliveries from across Europe. On some occasion the cranes required are so large they have to be transported in sections and built on site – making it a really interesting engineering challenge.”

Employing engineers across a range of expertise, the Donegal team are now looking to expand their horizons even further, by securing contracts with new clients firmly in their sights.

Brian, who has worked in the wind industry for 18 years and has seen countless changes in the sector, said: “I suppose the biggest change has been the size of the turbines. When I started, you were looking at 500kW turbines. Now you’re talking commonly about 2.5 – 5 MW and upwards of 8 MW in the near future – proper, utility scale machines. The advances have been huge.”

Even accessing these majestic machines has seen a revolution.

“It used to just be steps and ladders, which kept me fit,” he said. “Now though, in the newer turbines you have climbing assists and elevators.”

It’s not all plain sailing to the top though.

“They stop 20m from the top. It’s so disappointing!”

With a burgeoning calendar of maintenance, repairs and travel already scheduled for 2020, Brian says the team’s growing reputation in renewables servicing can only be good for the area.

“For somewhere like here – where we’re quite rural – having such a successful service operation is great for jobs. We employ people across a wide range of ages, from 20s upwards, and the skills and experience you gather makes this one of the best jobs in wind,” said Brian.

“With renewable energy becoming more mainstream and real growth industry, wind and solar should be a great employer for years to come.”

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