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Keeping windmills working

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 10:44 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - During a trip to Osmond, we met a man who fixes old windmills for a living, and even makes his own parts in his shop.

Eric Wattier refurbishes old windmills, and overhauls old gear boxes and motors. He got into the business, because he needed a job. “I was working construction in the winter of 1991, and I got laid off, and my bother Neal and a classmate of mine were working at a place that does this, so I got a job there,” Wattier said. From there he continued in construction and other jobs, but after moving to O’Neill, he says people found out he had a talent for fixing windmills. “Then it all started,” Wattier said.

Wattier says there is a real demand out there for old windmills needing repairs. “Some of them go on acreages, but a lot of them are still used in western Nebraska,” Wattier said. “I make probably 80% of my parts here, pouring bearings, and making the shafts. But I do order some parts from a friend of mine who has a company also.”

The windmill business based in Osmond has a wide reach. “Last year I was in 15 different states, tearing down and rebuilding. I ship parts to people in Washington state, North Carolina, Texas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. I’ve got them standing all over the place,” Wattier said. “There are times when I can service a windmill and change the oil, and it will take anywhere from a 1/2 hour to 2 hours to fix it. It all depends on what went wrong.”

Wattier jokes that the job can be a little dirty. “It’s very greasy. It’s work. If you don’t like getting dirty, you wouldn’t want to do it,” Wattier said. While the job can be dirty, there is also quite a bit of physical labor involved. “Towers range from 21 feet to upwards of 60 feet. So there’s a lot of climbing,” Wattier said.

The job may be challenging, but Eric Wattier seems to have found a niche where he is making a difference for farmers and landowners in Nebraska and across the country. For more information, you can call Wattier at (402) 340-0937.

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