When Tim Parker set aside his work boots after 12 years in construction, he wasn’t sure he’d be back. Thirty years later now, he is.
From April to September this year Tim operated a bulldozer during construction of the Quilt Block Wind Farm, often putting in 60-hour weeks. Quilt Block is a 98-megawatt wind farm in Lafayette Country owned by EDP Renewables; it started providing electricity in October for more than 25,000 homes served by Dairyland Power Cooperative.
“When I was young I didn’t know how good I had it — too restless I guess,” Tim says, explaining how after growing up near Appleton and working construction from age 18–30, he then went into computer programming and business.
“After my business phased out I was doing a lot of landscaping work on my kids’ new houses and I just wanted to get back into building. This was a banner year for construction in Wisconsin, and I got my union card back and they found me a good job.”
Tim is a member of Operating Engineers Local 139, a statewide union in Wisconsin, and says that there were about 50 equipment operators who worked on the Quilt Block project. They ran all kinds of machinery on site, including bulldozers, road graders, excavators, cranes, forklifts, skid steers, tractors and front end loaders.
“The first part of the job is the roads, getting those done so there’s access to the sites,” Tim explains. “Then we’d come in and strip the top dirt off, then excavate a hole for the foundation, about eight feet deep and 50 feet around.”
Next came pouring the concrete foundations; backfilling around the concrete; grading the site level for the cranes, towers and blade assembly; and finally restoring the top soil back so the land is ready for farming again.
“This was really satisfying work,” Tim says. “Some jobs day after day it always kind of looks the same. Not here. Every few days there was a new site getting stripped, or another where we’re putting it back to farmland. So there’s a lot of sense of accomplishment.”
“You felt like you were part of the future working on a wind farm. That felt really good. The turbines were away from houses and roads, which is by design, but when people from the area could watch from the road they would stop, especially when the towers were going up. We felt welcome. The project was a boon to the local economy with all the business for local hotels, taverns, restaurants and shops.”
In terms of pay and benefits, Tim calls jobs on this project ‘A-1.’ “Most of the guys have families to support, and these are the kind of jobs you can live on.”
We caught up with Tim for this interview just about a week after his work wrapped up on Quilt Block in mid-September. So is he ready for another similar gig? Tim says when the work was complete he was definitely ready for a break from an intense schedule. But then he paused and said, “after a week off, actually, I’m ready to go again.”