Hands on training always beats studying

At its in-house training center, Senvion trains customers and operators of wind turbines, service providers and service technicians. From introductory courses to maintenance and wind farm operation control, people are flocking from all over the world to attend courses in Büdelsdorf. They are given a turbine puzzle to complete as a warm-up exercise.

Practice for as long as it’s still fun

The unconscious technician dangles in the bright orange belts like a sack of potatoes. His colleague clutches him between his legs and slowly rappels down. A difficult task – but fortunately, just a drill. The equipment for rescuing people from heights, which every wind turbine technician carries, is the real thing. The same goes for the rescue ladder on the tower. Yet the tower itself, from which the two men are descending gently towards the ground, is just seven meters high and stands in the simulation facility of Senvion’s technical training center in Büdelsdorf.

“ASTER training is one of our best-sellers,” comments Sven Beck, head of Technical Training. “It is rare for an emergency doctor to go up there if a technician has an accident on a turbine tower. That would be too dangerous. It’s the ‘second man’ – the technician’s colleague – who is responsible for the rescue operation.” At Senvion, Additional Safety Training for Escape & Rescue is one of the standard add-ons for GWO height safety training – and, in an emergency, it is a form of life insurance between the technicians.

The training here is very much focused on practical work. It’s tailored precisely to suit the technology that I work with out in the field.
Julien Salami Service Supervisor, Boralex

Twenty meters away from the practice tower, trainer Stefan Lau and three “students” are hunched over the hydraulic assembly of a rotor holding brake. The top box has reported that the hydraulic pressure is too low. The course participants are trying to find the fault. First, they measure the basic pressure. All OK. Are the screw plug holes properly sealed? No, all three are unsealed. So, screw them down tightly. And with that, the hydraulic pressure starts to climb toward the setpoint. “The training here is very much focused on practical work,” says Julien Salami, Service Supervisor at Boralex appreciatively. “It’s tailored precisely to suit the technology that I work with out in the field.”

Senvion offers more than 100 different technical courses, from basic training for service technicians and customer training in wind farm operation control to advanced training in special components. Instruction in service and maintenance is customized for Senvion technology – there’s nothing like it available on the open market. “New turbine types also require the training to be adapted regularly,” says Sven Beck. “That’s why we work closely with other departments at Senvion, such as Product Development, HSE and Service.”

The service has been a great success. In 2016, the Technical Training team trained more than 5,000 participants. That includes many customers and sub-contractors from all over the world.

Horizontal wind turbines

The simulation facility in Büdelsdorf always makes a big impression. Here, the individual components of various Senvion “wind turbines” stand neatly side by side over 1,000 square meters: control cabinets, drives, converters, top boxes, rotor hubs and so on. “We make sure that the latest components are available at all times,” remarks group manager Thorsten Hansen. Because everything is arranged over a large space instead of being packed tightly together in the wind turbine, nobody has to climb up to a turbine to practice on a hydraulic brake. That saves time, increases safety and lowers costs. Depending on the type of course running, up to twelve people at once can be trained here. The most impressive thing for many is that the facility even features a transformer with a genuine grid connection. A motor simulates the wind. “With these components, we can enter live operation and feed electricity into the grid,” explains Hansen. “This is about as close to the real thing as it gets.”

Exclusive or mixed – always with a certificate

However, the Senvion training center is not the only training venue on offer. Some training courses can also be done on customers’ premises or directly on turbines in the field. Even a quayside wall on the Eider river is an option. Here, offshore technicians practice techniques including rappelling into the water from a training door – in cooperation with professional offshore rescue workers and safeguarded by the Deutsche Lebens-Rettungs-Gesellschaft (German Life Saving Association, or DLRG).

Some courses are exclusive, while others are mixed. They are offered in both German and English. Some courses take a day, and others last two weeks. Some training can even be done through e-learning. For example, participants can view on screen which specifications and modifications apply to new turbine types. They can also find out how to detect whether rotor blades have iced up. Every course finishes with a knowledge test. Those who pass receive a certificate. “Naturally, Senvion itself is certified,” comments certification manager Verena Becker. “Our Technical Training department also has its own certification program, while the simulation facility itself has been approved by TÜV (German Association for Technical Inspection).”

The next team is now rappelling down from the tower in the simulation facility. They’ve made it. Once they’re on the ground, the men high-five each other, joke with relief and unbuckle themselves from the belts. The trainer congratulates them. Later, the technicians will go home not only with their certificates but also with the secure feeling of knowing that they are ideally prepared for emergencies.