By Julie Abbass
Oct. 8—LOWVILLE — There are two things that are especially attractive for construction workers about building a wind project: the super-sized equipment used to build the towering turbines and the allure of the view — and the adrenaline rush — at the top.
Seventeen years ago, Elton E. Quotskyva of Illinois embraced an opportunity to become a member of the Ironworker Union Local 112 after building houses and doing general construction for years — a choice he said changed his life.
The first job the union sent Mr. Quotskyva on was at a wind farm in Bloomington, Ill.
"I remember driving out there, thinking the entire time, 'I hope they let me climb these things," Mr. Quotskyva said. "I wanted to climb. I wanted to be up top and just be a part of it, and then when I showed up, a guy had broken his hand that morning up top (of a turbine) ... so I got to take over for him. I did a good job out there. They liked me and I climbed for the next ten years after that."
He is currently the construction manager for Tennessee-based Barnhart Crane and Rigging, the subcontractor for the general contractor, Wesson Group, in charge of building Invenergy's Number Three Wind project in Lewis County. Barnhart is responsible for erecting the 27 wind turbines.
"Climbing is a young man's game," said Mr. Quotskyva, "We obviously have a lot of older gentlemen that just can't climb anymore. Physically it's just not a possibility, but they still are very, very good at rigging and some of the stuff we do on the ground in preparing pieces to go up."
Shawn P. McGovern, 26, of Barneveld, has been a climber on just a few jobs since joining the Utica-based Ironworkers Union Local 440 in June 2020, but he knew right away he wanted to go "up tower."
He did and he is a tower leader for a climbing crew on this build.
"I had a couple of real good guys that were tower leads. They kind of took me in and showed me the ropes. They taught me pretty much everything that I know now," he said.
The crew Mr. McGovern leads is also called the "top out" crew. It is their job to maneuver, place and secure the turbine parts brought to the top of the towers by massive cranes.
"We got a pretty good crew. Most of them are new to wind so they all came on, they learned quick and we got in a groove, so it's all worked very well for us," said Mr. McGovern. "These are new towers for me — I haven't done these Vestas (turbines) — so it was a little learning curve in the beginning, but I think we got it now."
According to Mr. Quotskyva, constantly evolving technology in the wind industry keeps his job interesting and is one of the reasons Barnhart's standard operating procedure is to start with training.
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