Turbine Cowboys: Keeping it real 30 stories up

The new Weather Channel show  "Turbine Cowboys" is pretty compelling TV. Turbine technicians 300 feet up (click here) battle the elements to maintain the blades on these huge energy-producing machines. The episode I saw featured technicians attempting to safely climb a huge ice-covered tower in Alaska.

The four-episode show is part of a larger Weather Channel series called "Braving the Elements," which also features crews restoring lights during bad weather and iron workers on skyscrapers, bridges and other towering structures.

I'm not a big fan of reality TV - Boy, do I dislike those screaming housewives and the Jersey Shore bunch - but I watch this one, in part because it helps showcase an emerging clean-energy technology that diversifies the nation's energy supply.

The United States will never give up oil - it is practically woven into the country's DNA - but we need to balance things out. Oil prices are too volatile and unpredictable, which wreak havoc on businesses' ability to budget. And the military deems our dependence upon oil a security risk.

Wind and solar energy are ways to decrease that footprint. Yes, turbines don't turn when the wind doesn't blow, and solar energy isn't produced when it's dark, but researchers are quickly perfecting energy storage. It won't be long before  intermittency isn't a problem. And, yes, solar is more costly, but prices are falling as the industry builds heft and as technology advances.

The "Turbine Cowboys" episode I watched featured a safety expert from Tehachapi, a Kern County city that is home to one of the largest wind farms in the nation. Thousands of turbines dot the hills around a mountain pass, and the industry helps boost the local economy. Read more in this tehachapinews.com article.

Some people may debate the cultural significance of reality TV, but this show raises the profile of a rather obscure profession, and casts a spotlight on a small piece of the energy infrastructure. Maybe it will give a shot in the arm to the wind industry.

 Video by The Weather Channel