Alfredo Yttesen: from the ditches to electronics engineer. And a 12,000 volt shock
Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi
July 9, 2022
"In early 1985, I got a job with Star Electric putting up Bonus turbines at the Arbutus wind park. Zond Energy Systems and other companies were thriving at that time, and I decided that I was going to get a job in the windmills because I liked them. I applied and got a job as an $8 an hour laborer. I was only there for three months but it gave me a start in wind. It was snowing at that time of year, so I was mostly cleaning snow out of ditches so they could see the cables. They let the laborers unpack the controllers, and I loved the electronics and wanted to know how they worked, but all we got to do was unwrap them.
Then I went to work at Airtricity, a company that had turbines behind the cement plant at Monolith. By then I was an expert wind turbine electrical guy with six months of experience, haha. I got to work on controllers and I loved it. My 'work truck' was my old Ford LTD and I'd drive that back and forth to the job site and work out of it. I didn't even get reimbursed for my gas. This was in 1985 and we had to be done with our work by the end of the year. We'd work 'till midnight almost every night. We got our project done by December 31, and a week or so later they laid everyone off and closed the doors of the business. The nice thing was that they had several different kinds of turbines, both Danish and American, including a five-bladed Blue Max machine, so I got a lot of experience. It was a lot of fun working with the wind technology in its infancy.
Then went to work for FloWind, but it was Oak Creek Energy Systems where I wanted to hang my hardhat. I wanted to go to Oak Creek, because they had a lot of turbines off. For some reason I thought I was going to save the world and get those turbines running again. There was one kind in particular – the Lolland 75 – they had 21 of them and only one of them ran all the time. I was working part-time as a cook at the Stockyard Inn on F Street, and I told the co-owner, Judy Rombouts, that I wanted to work at Oak Creek. At that time some guys from Oak Creek – Jim Watkins, Robert Lewis and Bob Conner – ate there almost every day, so Judy mentioned it to them and I ended up getting hired.
I wanted to work with controllers, but got hired as a laborer again at $9 an hour, which was a dollar more an hour than I was making at FloWind. I was working in a ditch one day, and my shovel hit a cable that was supposed to be off, and I got blasted with 12,000 volts. It knocked me unconscious and gave me burns on 18 percent of my body. I thought I was dead. I was waiting for my wings to come out, and they didn't, so I figured I was going to hell. But I was alive.
One guy I was working with took off running, but another called for help and Bob Conner drove me out of there in a pickup truck. There was road construction on Willow Springs Road and it was closed, but Bob just drove right through the signs and red flags to get me to the hospital. It was very painful and I was off for three months. Finally I couldn't stay at home any more, I said I have to go play windmills again."
Alfredo went back to work at Oak Creek Energy Systems, and began to rise through the company as his natural intelligence and aptitude with electronics became evident. "I eventually built computers, set up networks and built controllers," Alfredo says. "I visited Kevin Cousineau at Zond and was blown away by what he was capable of and by things he was designing. I started doing electronic design, and in 1999 built an electronic board from scratch – it's still in service."
– Alfredo Yttesen
There aren't many people in the wind industry with a greater depth of experience with more different turbines and more different companies that Alfredo Yttesen, owner of Windmatic.com and Computronics. Alfredo is a Tehachapi High School alumni (Class of '82) who got started in the early days of wind development in Tehachapi Pass and has stayed active in energy production from wind.