Last June, three men squeezed inside a wind turbine in China’s Gobi Desert. They were employees of American Superconductor Corp., a maker of computer systems that serve as the electronic brains of the device. From time to time, AMSC workers are required to head out to a wind farm in some desolate location -- that’s where the wind usually is -- to check on the equipment, do maintenance, make repairs, and keep the customers happy.
On this occasion, the AMSC technicians were investigating a malfunction. They entered the cylindrical main shaft of the turbine, harnessed themselves to a ladder, and climbed 230 feet in darkness up to the nacelle, an overpacked compartment that holds the machinery used to convert the rotation of the blades into electricity. Devens, Massachusetts-based AMSC had been using the turbine, manufactured by the company’s largest customer, China’s Sinovel Wind Group Co. (601558), to test a new version of its control system software.
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