The High Life
Rock-climber blade techs keep the wind turbines turning, with gusto.
All photos by Blake Gordon
Wind turbine technician sits at the top of the list for fastest-growing US jobs over the next decade (solar photovoltaic installer is third). With a median annual wage of $52,910 and projected growth of 61 percent, the winds of change are blowing in favor of renewable energy.
Over the past 20 years, Santa Cruz, California-based Rope Partner has established itself as “the premier provider of rope access maintenance, inspection and performance enhancement services that require specialized access approaches.” Fear of heights is a deal-breaker for an “at-height” blade technician applicant, so it’s no surprise that many of Rope Partner’s employees come from a rock climbing background, cracked fingernails and all. But knowing the ropes is only the beginning; each technician must also complete the specialized WindCorps® training and certification program (Rope Partner also maintains certification and membership in all governing bodies overseeing the wind power industry).
’Twas a whirlwind journey for Rope Partner’s founder—after meeting a pair of German climbers on a climbing trip in Joshua Tree National Park in 1998, who introduced him to the niche rope access industry (they had just finished helping the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrap the Reichstag in Berlin), to working in the European wind energy sector, to bringing his skills back to the US. The work of an at-height technician is always evolving, but one thing will never change: Safety first.
This story was first published in the Patagonia Spring 2021 journal.