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Taking family life to great new heights

Former FIFO mine worker Jarred Alsop says being able to pick up his kids from kinder has been one of the benefits of working above ground.

Jarred Alsop headshot 800x800

Before a career change, Jarred Alsop was more familiar with servicing heavy vehicles deep underground than he was with heights or anything to do with clean energy.

The mechanical tradesman from Colac, Victoria, never thought that his experience with large diesel machinery would be relevant to working on a wind farm.

He’d been employed for four years fly-in fly-out in mines across Australia, but came home because he and his wife started a family.

“I didn’t mind all the travel at the time because I didn’t have kids,” he says. “There’s no way I could do it now. I don’t know how the guys do it being away from family and kids for that long.

“I just by chance saw an ad in the newspaper, I didn’t even think I would qualify to work there because I’m mechanical trade and I always thought of wind turbines as being electrical.

“I got to work early one morning and was having a coffee, flicking through the paper because it was there on the table, and I was like ‘oh they’re looking for mechanical people to work on that!’ I think I had a resume in by the end of the day, and I was straight in.”

When he got a job at ACCIONA’s Mt Gellibrand wind farm as one of six technicians, he was surprised to find that - apart from being 90 metres up off the ground – the turbines weren’t as unfamiliar as he’d assumed.

“It’s all controlled exactly the same as the machines I’m used to working on, which was surprising. It’s just controlling different things, and it’s a different layout. You’ve got such big bearings and [lots of] grease. The whole turbine runs on hydraulics to move the blades in and out to control the speed. It’s very similar to all the diesel hydraulics I’ve worked on in the past.”

In terms of his family life, though, the difference to working in mining is ‘huge’ he says.

“Before, I was doing two weeks on, 12 hour days. Now it’s Monday to Friday 7 am-3 pm,” says Alsop, who now has two children with his wife; four-year-old son Nate and two-year-old daughter Charlie. “I can pick the kids up from kinder – it’s great,” he says.

One of the best parts of the job is starting the day with a 360-degree view of the area he grew up in.

“Our main goal is keeping the turbines running, so first thing every day we have a look at the alarm log to see if there are any problems and if anything needs to be fixed.

“We have a lift inside the turbine that takes us from the base up to the tip and then we have to climb up through a hatch into the top - what we call the ‘nacelle’ - and that’s basically where most of our work happens.

“In the roof of the nacelle there are some hatches, and we can pop them open and stick our heads out and have a look around. First thing in the morning it’s just beautiful, especially if there’s a fog or the sun’s coming up.

When people think of jobs in wind power, they often think about construction, Alsop says, and he thinks that’s a good route into a more stable career like his.

“The construction side is pretty easy to get into, and that gives you a foot in the door,” he says. “You get a feel for the job and make sure you’re happy with the heights and all that sort of stuff.

“In my role we’re thinking about 25-30 years down the track. So we’re more invested in the project.”

The long-term nature of the work appeals to him, and Alsop says he’s in the job for the long haul.

“Before I got the job I hadn’t thought about the [renewable energy] industry like I said I didn’t think I’d ever be able to work on a wind turbine. But since then it’s great being part of a team that’s working on these machines, and working for the environment. We’re doing something positive rather than negative, and that’s got to be a good thing.

“The future for me – I’m planning on staying in this job forever. I’ve moved from the diesel mechanic trade to this. I mean looking at the two, I know which one is going to fall over first. I think this is definitely the place for me to be, and I love the work.”