4 June 2012
A few weeks ago, as part of a project, two of our colleagues, Sjoukje Groen and Koen van Kooij, climbed to the top of a wind turbine tower to see what a windmill looked like from the inside and on the outside, and to get a feel for the size of all the parts. Their conclusion? Awesome!
Koen: “We visited a Vestas V80 that was 80 meters high and that had a rotor diameter of 80 meters. Before starting the climb, we were given instructions as, even though the tower had an elevator, we took the stairs. During the climb, we were anchored to a steel cable, so that if we fell, we would not immediately land 80 meters down below. The tower was made up of three sections, and at the top of each section was a platform where we could rest and get used to the height (although you don’t see much from inside the tower). Our host explained about the tower and how it was built, what kind of maintenance was carried out etc. What struck us most were the sheer dimensions of the structure. These were far greater than what we usually have to deal with in our projects.
Despite the fact that the turbine was not running (the rotor rotated only very slowly), it still continued to seek the wind as it changed direction. As a result, the rotor and the nacelle (the box at the top of the tower containing the main technical parts) turned every 5 to 10 minutes. This was noticeable in the tower, which bent back and forth. Undeterred, we valiantly climbed on - Sjoukje, perhaps a tad less valiant than me, but we made it just fine!
At the top, in the nacelle, we learned all about the gearbox, generator and high-voltage transformer. We also saw just how little space there was for technicians to work in, even though at times large-sized, very heavy components need to be replaced – like when a component in the hub of the rotor is involved. Of course, they manage – they have to – but it’s not easy. We also looked through the hatch opening for the crane, but as we could only see onto a field, and therefore there was no reference, it wasn’t at all frightening.
After some climbing around in the nacelle, the crowning moment arrived: we were allowed to sit atop the nacelle, behind the rotor. It was a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime experience. The view was incredible, and we could see very far. The photos also show that ,fortunately, we had great weather.
This field trip yielded a lot of extra input for the rest of the project. We now not only know what a wind turbine looks like, but also how it is made, built and maintained.