• E-mail Rick
• Video: Wind Farm
Dec. 12, 2005
Atlantic City, New Jersey — I'm perched on the roof of a wind turbine, roughly 280 feet in the air. It's freezing cold, and the wind is blowing at about 15 to 20 miles per hour, but the giant rotor next to us sits still. The turbine isn't quite finished yet, and the wind farm is a couple weeks away from producing power.
The roof is made of some kind of fiberglass composite. It's got a rough ribbed texture so the rubber soles of my boots grip it pretty good, but the surface is only about eight feet wide and maybe 20 feet long. You have to climb through a small porthole to get up on top, and the maintenance crew tells me I'm the first reporter to do it here.
There's no cage, no wall, and no railings on the roof. Instead, there's an ankle-high bar along one edge. I'm wearing a harness, and have a couple of straps with caribiner clips at the ends attached to my waist. I've clipped one of the straps to the rail. It's pulled tight when I stand up. The guys take off their hard hats so I take mine off too, and look out across the marsh and surrounding bay, past the gleaming gold Borgata Hotel and Casino. I can see bridges and highways and marinas, the convention center, the entire Atlantic City strip, and the ocean beyond.
It's an incredible view and a powerful feeling and very, very cool. It's also just a little bit scary.
* * *
It's not easy getting to the top. When you walk through the door onto the windmill's base, there's no elevator or stairs. Instead, a metal ladder stretches from the concrete floor straight up and out of sight. One of the guys tells me there are 288 rungs on the ladder, spaced 11 inches apart.
About a hundred feet up there's a platform where you can rest, and another platform about a hundred feet beyond that.
We needed them. The climb was exhausting.
Rung by rung, hand over hand, higher and higher, your back against the curved interior of the tower. It's slow going. Only one of us is on one section of the ladder at a time, clipping and unclipping a safety device on and off a cable at each level, to make sure we don't fall to the ground if we lose our grip. It takes about 40 minutes for us all to reach the top.
My cameraman Rich D'Elia isn't exactly gung-ho about climbing the ladder, especially with his heavy Betacam over his shoulder. He also has a knapsack and tripod. The maintenance guys offer to carry the gear, tying straps to the stuff and hauling it up. Rich decides to carry the camera himself.
My producer Shushannah Walshe is excited about going up with us. She puts on the harness, waits her turn, clips onto the safety cable, goes up about 15 rungs, and changes her mind.
As soon as she gets back down, one of the guys above loses his hardhat. It crashes to the ground right next to her.
* * *
Shush doesn't mind me telling you about her chickening out, as long as I also mention my photographer Richie could barely bring himself to poke his head out of the hatch to the roof.
"I'm not going out there!" He told me, wide eyed.
"After climbing all this way?" I asked, incredulous.
He shot my standup with just his chest and shoulders poking through the hole, but after offering to shoot the rest of the story myself, he reluctantly crawled up and finished the job.
* * *
Next: What Wind Power is all about
A great report. That took guts. 280 foot up there. Wow!
G R Mich.
Watched you over the weekend, you did a wonderful job reporting; would love to see you report Big Story on a regular basis.
Keep up the good work. You are a refreshing reporter.
You guys are brave!! No way I’d tackle that story.
We have the wind turbines in our part of Texas. They are beautiful as well as useful. They are truely things of the future. We have the Post Dispatch, which is the local weekly newspaper. Why don't you come to our part of the country and try out one of the wind turbines. While here I would treat you to a great Mexican meal! I am proud to say we are 100 percent FOX Fans!!!
Hope that your story leads more people to think wind when they think energy. Again thanks for the story.
Harnessing the wind off the ocean is a fabulous way to create clean and cheap energy...now if only they'd realize that up on Cape Cod and stop fighting it.
New York, NY
• E-mail Rick