Ever heard of a Tower Climbing Grease Monkey? Learn how this community of tower techs help keep wind towers spinning
When Neal Gyngard started his career in the wind energy industry, he first worked in wind farm supply chain operations and liked what he was doing; nevertheless, he wanted to know more about how the wind turbines really operated. Making an unusual career move, including taking a pay decrease, Neal decided to become a wind energy technician. Like all wind techs, he often worked 14-hour days and was on call for emergencies, but he loved the job, camaraderie and unique culture he found among fellow tower techs.
A wind tech community is born
Neal knew that wind techs across the country were experiencing similar kinds of maintenance and repair issues, but they had no way of tapping into each other's lessons learned. One day he had an epiphany: someone needed to create an avenue for tower techs to communicate with each other about their troubleshooting findings and solutions to problems.
Neal decided to form an online Facebook (FB) community called the Tower Climbing Grease Monkeys (named after a band he'd formed with some tower tech friends). Now wind technicians could ask other wind techs about how they solved similar and tricky troubleshooting problems, share best practices and tool suggestions.
"If you're a base level technician and you're out there troubleshooting, electrical testing, you're using the Fluke 87V industrial multimeter," says Neal. "Fluke is definitely the go-to brand, something I've trusted my life with and is what I use."
Neal has added job openings to the FB page because of the growing demand for tower techs. He’s also created opportunities for techs to share the daily and enjoyable aspects of the job, including pictures showing themselves at work and the amazing scenery they come across because of the nature of the job.
The dream gets real
What was once a modest dream—Neal had initially hoped for at most 1,000 TCGM members—is now a fulltime business for Neal. The TCGM FB user group stands at over 15,000 members. Moreover, he has also added a special line of TCGM gear available through the dedicated TCGM website, and garnered the support of eight sponsors who help him travel across country to share the newest products and services with tower techs.
"In 2017, I went to a wind industry trade show in San Diego and I got recognized," said Neal. "Because of the online community I'd built, plus I'd given away TCGM t-shirts and made some videos, I was almost like a celebrity. I was surprised and not used to it."
While at the trade show, Neal had taken some video of new and emerging products and posted them to the TCGM FB user group. The next day he received a call from one of the show's vendors saying they had received some sales leads from the post. That's when the light bulb went off for Neal. He could build a business around sharing products that would add value to the life of a wind tech.
Neal's interest in tower techs and renewable energy goes beyond his business. One of his long-term goals is to help the tower tech profession become a recognizable trade, supported by a strong set of national standards.
As the wind industry continues to evolve and grow, so will the community of tower techs and their job of keeping the nation's wind towers turning.