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Meet a man who works up in the air fixing wind turbines

Daren Bernier shares photos from his 'office,' sometimes above the clouds

CBC News · Posted: Jan 05, 2023 4:00 AM EST | Last Updated: January 5

Daren Bernier is a major component exchange technician working on wind turbines across Canada. With the job comes a lot of responsibility, he says, but he is also able to capture some spectacular sights from atop the machines. (Submitted by Daren Bernier)

Driving down Highway 401 in southwestern Ontario it's hard to miss the wind turbines flanking the stretch of road between Windsor and London, Ont., but have you ever noticed anyone fixing them?

Daren Bernier is a major component exchange technician — or a wind turbine technician for short — who spends each day climbing the tall towers in need of repair.

He does his job at about 130 metres in the air. That's the size of most units in the Chatham-Kent region, he says.

"Wind turbines are similar to cars in that they need to be serviced, they need parts replaced, upgrades, all those kind of fun things," said Bernier. "We basically replace any type of major component. So the generator, a gearbox, a blade, anything that's big and heavy, if it fails, we'll come on in and replace it."

Bernier says a lot of precautions are taken for those who work on wind turbines. (Submitted by Daren Bernier)

The machines consist of a tall tower with a rotor head that large blades are attached to. Winds turn the propeller-like blades around the rotor which turns a generator creating electricity.

Over his career, Bernier says he's climbed thousands of the towers across North America and has never gotten tired of it.

"For me, it's never gotten old," he says. "I know a lot of guys still complain about climbing towers and how it's a pain in the butt, but it's one of those things that I always look forward to and getting up there, seeing the views."

WATCH | What it's like working as a wind turbine technician:

Daren Bernier has climbed thousands of wind turbines across Canada to do maintenance on the structures. He explains what he does each day.

Ontario saw a big push toward wind energy in the last decade, leading the country in wind capacity as of 2019 according to the Canada Energy Regulator (CEW).

About 5,060 megawatts of wind capacity was added between 2005 and 2019.

The CEW also says the machines are getting larger in recent years.

Bernier has worked on top of wind turbines across Canada. (Submitted by Daren Bernier)

"In 2018, wind turbines installed in Canada had a nameplate capacity averaging 3.3 MW and rotor diameters averaging 114 metres, which is longer than the length of a Canadian Football League field," the CEW reported in a Nov. 2019 market snapshot. "Wind turbines from the 1990s had an average capacity of 0.15 MW and rotor diameters of 23 metres; the length of a standard tennis court."

Bernier says at times, climbing the machines can be difficult, but safety precautions are always taken.

Some of the larger machines even have very small elevators inside of the turbine tower to help workers get to the top.

Being comfortable with heights is definitely a requirement on the job, he says.

"I think I've been a little bit lucky in that regard because I've been a rock climber for 13 years now, so I'm very comfortable working at heights," he said. "But it's just the training that we receive is very focused on keeping things like 100 per cent tied off so you don't drop a tool 300 feet down."

Bernier does enjoy his time, and has shared beautiful photos of his views from across Canada, including Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, B.C., Quebec, and of course Ontario.


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