Spending hours a day, hundreds of feet in the air, may not sound like a fun time to some, but Alice Lyon built an entire business based on accessing hard-to-reach places.
Alice’s company is called Lyon Technical Access, and she has done some impressive work for Grand Renewable Wind, K2 Wind, and most recently South Kent Wind.
“We started the company back in 2018 with the idea of having a rope access company. Industrial rope access is like industrial climbing—we rig ropes to get to hard-to-reach places,” Alice explains.
Before starting her business, Alice worked for other companies on projects at Pattern Canada facilities including St. Joseph Wind, Armow Wind, North Kent Wind, and Belle River Wind.
“My partner and I got into wind and we were doing wind turbine blade repairs. Then, we started to deal more with Pattern Canada. We put the leading edge protection on the turbine blades, as well as composite repairs, cleaning the blades on the towers themselves, and painting. We do a whole bunch of stuff but our core business is industrial rope access,” she explains.
This type of work wasn’t originally what Alice set out to do, but she was on the right path.
“When I left school, I went to college to study outdoor pursuits. I originally got into being a rock climbing instructor. Then one day, I was reading a rock climbing magazine and saw an advert for industrial rope access and I thought it was so cool someone could get up on turbines and buildings and do work. So I looked into it and ended up getting my rope climbing certification down in New Zealand,” she says.
Just Getting Started
Alice is originally from the United Kingdom but moved to New Zealand when she was 20 years old. From there, she moved to Australia for a year before moving to Canada.
“I’ve always wanted to work on wind turbines. I started in oil and gas and then got into renewables and I love it. I’ve been in it for the last four years,” she says.
Her interest and passion in renewable energy grew and eventually took her in a new direction.
“I wanted to start a business because I wanted to be my own boss, but at the same time, I also wanted to have an ethical company that looks after its employees,” Alice explains. “We had the opportunity to work at Grand Renewable Wind this season which was great, and the business has really grown from there. There are nine of us and everyone seems really happy and is doing great work.”
A Women-Owned Operation
Lyon Technical Access is co-owned by Alice and her friend Britney Newell.
“I don’t know many women who are in rope access. Britney and I are both Level 3 and last time we checked, there are only about 100 female Level 3’s in the whole world. It’s a pretty small number, and very cool that there are only three of us who are women, out of nine on our team,” Alice says.
Getting to Level # is no easy feat and requires extensive practice and experience.
“You have to start as a Level 1, which is a 4-day course with a 1-day assessment. Then as a Level 1, you need 1,000 hours and a minimum of one year of experience to go for Level 2. And then it’s the same at Level 2: you have to have another year of experience plus another 1,000 hours as a minimum,” she explains.
Can’t Beat The Views
Going up a turbine requires skill and careful attention to detail.
“We lock the tower up because obviously we don’t want the turbine blades moving when we’re on it. Then we have really strong ropes—they can hold a car or a truck—and then we rig them up and then we rappel over the edge and that’s how we get to the blades and do our work,” Alice says.
Alice says it’s a lot different from other jobs that require climbing, like window cleaning.
“People may be familiar with Boatswain’s Chair, which is what you usually see when people are cleaning windows. They can only rappel down, they can’t climb back up, whereas we can climb up, and can climb under – what we do is a lot safer. It’s a very safe method of accessing certain areas because we follow very strict procedures,” she explains.
Once she’s up there, the work begins.
“It depends on what we’re doing, but we could typically be hanging up there for about three to six hours before going down for a break. We just started using auto ascenders, and we clip it to our harness. It’s a battery-operated device we use to take us up on the ropes. It saves a lot of time and a lot of energy,” she says.
With a passion for the job, there are a few other things that Alice loves about her line of work.
“The views are amazing up there. But the people we work with are my favourite part. I love talking with and meeting new people,” Alice says.
Learn more about Alice and Lyon Technical Access by visiting her company’s website: https://www.lyontechnicalaccess.com