Larkin Enterprises helps establish wind-tower rescue and composite repair training
By Ramona du Houx
January 3rd, 2010
The specialized course, Tower Rescue & Composite Training 2009, also instructed these individuals in composite technology, wind-tower repair at Southern Maine Community College Advanced Technology Center extension in Brunswick. Wind-tower composite repair could become something Maine specializes in with the research and development occurring at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center.
This first-of-its-kind wind-tower, rescue-and-repair course was funded by a federal Recovery Act grant to Maine’s North Star Alliance Initiative (NSAI). A contract was signed between Larkin Enterprises, Inc. of Lincoln and NSAI for $139,300 to conduct and organize the training.
“This partnership of state, federal, and private interests is providing critical workforce training in an expanding field,” said Governor John Baldacci. “These are good-paying, highly skilled jobs in an area in which Maine is leading nationally, and one that we are aggressively pursuing with private partners in the U.S. and abroad.”
NSAI contracted with Larkin Enterprises, Inc. (LEI) of Lincoln for the training. LEI attended Governor Baldacci’s International Trade Mission to Spain and Germany, where they realized there is a shortage of qualified maintenance-and-repair craftspeople around the globe.
“The wind-energy field is rapidly expanding globally, without enough adequately trained individuals to maintain this technology,” said Mike Ireland, business development manager of LEI. “Even in Europe, where the use of wind power is well established and far ahead of the United States, there is great demand for these highly trained individuals.”
LEI has installed electrical systems in over 1000 turbines across the country and recently began doing the same in Maine by installing the up-tower wiring and underground collector system at Kibby Mountain in Western Maine.
(Kibby Mountain in Western Maine. Photo by du Houx)
“My goal in setting up this training opportunity was to begin to establish a qualified workforce that is able to repair and maintain wind turbines in the state of Maine, as well as around the country,” said Ireland. “This is only the first step in creating this workforce, but hopefully I will be able to expand the training of this first group and also introduce more individuals to the world of wind-turbine repair.”
The mockup wind towers in the HSE training facility are enough to give anyone vertigo, if so inclined. With equipment provided by Maine businesses, the trainees were put through their paces, getting acclimatized to the height and difficulties surrounding working on wind towers. While repair work goes on, the power is off, and the blades are locked in position.
LEI and eight other Maine businesses supplied the materials and equipment for this innovative training program with ARRA funds. HSE supplied specialty equipment. Sterling Rope of Biddeford supplied climbing ropes. Maine Awards of Lewiston manufactured the gear bags that are specifically designed to house equipment used by wind-turbine technicians.
The individuals who were trained are employees of LEI, First Wind, and Lyman Morse, all companies involved in wind development in Maine.
According to Ireland, establishing a workforce for wind-turbine maintenance and repair will create high-paying jobs for individuals in Maine, ranging from $40 to $70 an hour.
The Maine North Star Alliance Initiative, in partnership with the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine, the Maine Composites Alliance, and the Maine Technology Institute, is sponsoring the Maine Wind Industry Seminar Series 2010. The conference runs Jan. 12 to 14 in Portland and is free. Participants will be able to learn more about composite and wind-power markets. Registration is open at: www.aewc.umaine.edu.