Synergies within the WindGuard universe occasionally result in quite unexpected, extraordinary and exciting projects. Recently, for example, our Technical Management and Safety Training divisions jointly ensured a smooth film shoot on the nacelle roof of a 170 meters high wind turbine. WindGuard Insight tells you the whole story.
Deutsche WindGuard's Technical Management team looks after the seven state-of-the-art Vestas V136 4.2 MW wind turbine generators (WTGs) of the ground-breaking flagship project “Windwasserstoff Salzgitter” (Wind Hydrogen Salzgitter). With a total output of almost 30 MW, they supply power for the production of green hydrogen, which Salzgitter AG uses to replace previously required carbon in its steel production.
Earlier this year, Avacon Natur GmbH, as the constructor and operator of this exceptional wind farm, gave Max Schlappa, their point of contact at Deutsche WindGuard’s technical management, a call and asked for support with an extraordinary idea: Twelve months after the wind farm had been commissioned, as part of a corporate video, a member of Avacon AG’s Executive Board would be invited to speak about experiences and achievements in front of a camera at airy heights on top of one of the wind turbines.
What sounds so simple and looks completely routine in the film actually required intensive and careful preparation. With its wide range of services and extensive experience in various specialist areas, Deutsche WindGuard has exactly the right experts on board to handle this type of challenge and cover all tasks but the actual filming.
Deutsche WindGuard’s Technical Management department usually visits the seven turbines twice a year. For Max’s portfolio of more than 80 WTGs all visits on site sum up to more than 140 per year. “Despite my routine in visual inspections of 'my' turbines it is fairly unusual to accompany visitors in general and especially more than one at the same time,” Max points out with a smile about referring to the WTGs as 'his'.
He immediately picked up the phone and asked Alexander Treichel, Head of Safety Training at Deutsche WindGuard, for assistance. Together, they developed a safety concept that allowed three guests to be safely escorted onto the wind turbine in compliance with all regulations and risk assessments for occupational safety. In addition to Avacon Chief Technology Officer Dr. Stephan Tenge, videographer Max Kruse from Escape Film Production also had to go up. And Sebastian Wöltje, Asset Manager at Avacon Natur, couldn't miss the opportunity to personally accompany this exciting project on one of his turbines, of course.
Max coordinated date and details with the turbine manufacturer and took over control of the turbine the day of the film shoot. “Filming on the roof and in the hub required the rotor star to be bolted and the hub's hydraulics to be set to 'safe mode',” he explains.
For two of the three participants, it was the very first time ever on a WTG. “Now that I see the wind turbine in front of me, I am wondering at which height my courage will abandon me,” Stephan Tenge admitted at its base, “I’m really not sure if I’ll dare going up – but let’s do it now!”
Before the ascent, Alexander and his training team members Sven Sula and Diego Buchow instructed each participant how to use the personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly. “We even provided all necessary PPE, including fall protection runners and rescue equipment,” says Alexander.
Safety first! Sven Sula (right) instructed videographer Max Kruse on how to secure himself correctly when using the ladder.
The WTG’s elevator offers very limited space – not easy at all for two people plus a heap of video equipment to fit in.
Instructor Sven has many years of professional experience as a construction manager in the installation of WTGs and as a service technician and inspector, for example in the maintenance of WTGs and the inspection of rotor blades using rope access techniques. So for him personally, it was not a big deal to swap his workplace at Deutsche WindGuard’s training centre in Elsfleth with a wind turbine for the day. “But I’m aware that you can get a bit nervous when you go up that high for the first time,” he says, “I think our professional attitude was particularly helpful for the two beginners.”
Following a thorough safety briefing, the tour group learned the basics of self-securing and was familiarised with possible rescue scenarios. During the entire stay inside and on the turbine, each of the three visitors was assigned to a member of the WindGuard crew on a one-to-one basis. Even the evacuation of six people from the nacelle would have been possible within short time.
Explaining the safety concept Max adds: “This event reminded me how exposed my usual work environment appears to other people. Heights and confined spaces in the turbines don’t affect me anymore. Yes, I know about the risks and behave accordingly but they don’t paralyze me. It was even more important for us to demonstrate this calm routine to our visitors, in order to make them feel safe while moving within the WTG’s tower and on its roof top. I can only admire what an outstanding job the visitors did overcoming their fears while totally trusting our instructions on how to move securely in the WTG.”
Already the ride in the tiny elevator inside the WTG’s tower was an adventure, and it took some time until all six had made their way into the nacelle. “I wish I had taken the drone up with me right from the beginning,” is Max Kruse’s lesson learned, “the 25-minute ride up and back down was something I hadn't taken into account at all.” Standing on the approximately 25 square meters large nacelle roof and 170 metres above the ground is nothing for anyone not immune to giddiness. Through the exit hatches at each narrow end of the nacelle, Stephan Tenge on one side and Max Kruse on the other climbed onto the roof with their Deutsche WindGuard escorts who ensured correct securing at all times. Captured by Max Kruse’s camera, Stephan Tenge recited his four-minute text freely and several times in a row. For the film sequences recorded by the drone, the WindGuard team coordinated Stephan Tenge’s appearance on the roof top in cooperation with the ground staff via mobile phone. “We calmly explained him when to go up and secured him to the anchor points,” Max says, “during the breaks in between the recordings we moved inside the nacelle where I tried to get Stephan’s mind off the height by doing some small talk.”
The spectacular pictures speak for themselves - all the effort and the adventure were worth it. “This was a whole new experience,” Max Kruse expresses his enthusiasm, “standing on a wind turbine for the first time while filming an interview!”
Final stage directions: Max Kruse (standing) went through the planned scene with Stephan Tenge (right) and Diego Buchow (left).
First time for Stephan Tenge and Max Kruse to record an interview on top of a WTG. Sven Sula (right) ensured optimal securing.
Deutsche WindGuard’s onsite team was also highly satisfied with the smooth and successful event – and took home a follow-up assignment straight away: Just a few days later, they stopped by at one of the Vestas wind turbines in Salzgitter again. This time, they trained some Avacon employees directly on site – because the scenario at a real WTG with its original equipment is simply the most authentic. This ensured the instant connection of theory and practical exercises – and even a rescue by ladder from the lift at a height of 20 metres was on the training agenda. “While we are currently installing an elevator at our modern training centre in Norden to offer customers even more realistic conditions,” Alexander concludes, “reality is still the best training environment.”
In order of appearance:
- Supporting this film shoot: Max Schlappa/Deutsche WindGuard
- Toolbox Talk: Alexander Treichel/Deutsche WindGuard
- Shortly before the ascent: Alexander Treichel/Deutsche WindGuard
- Safety first: Alexander Treichel/Deutsche WindGuard
- The WTG's elevator: Alexander Treichel/Deutsche WindGuard
- Final Stage directions: Alexander Treichel/Deutsche WindGuard
- First time: Alexander Treichel/Deutsche WindGuard
- Synergies within the WindGuard Universe: Max Kruse/Escape Film Production
- Happy with the successful day: Max Kruse/Escape Film Production