Jeff Bezos smashing that champagne bottle: the story behind the story

This week Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made headlines by smashing a bottle of champagne to launch Amazon Wind Farm Texas, one of the company’s 18 clean energy projects to date. Press play on the video below to see Bezos in action.

It’s a fantastic visual, and here at Into the Wind we had some important questions about this stunt, such as:

“Did Jeff Bezos really climb a wind turbine, or was there an elevator inside?”
“What was the wind up there like?”
“How did you make sure the champagne bottle didn’t hurt anything (or anyone)?!

And, as The Verge headlined its story, “Alexa, how do I get down?”

Interview with Philip Moore

To learn about the logistics behind this moment, we spoke with Philip Moore, Vice President of Development at Lincoln Clean Energy.

Moore credits Amazon with the idea of putting Bezos on top of one of the 100 GE wind turbines at the project, and said their teams worked together to make the day happen.

“There were a lot of moving pieces for this event,” explained Moore. It was a typical October day, with normal site conditions as they headed out to the turbine. The team at the wind farm were closely monitoring the wind speeds before Bezos arrived, and even after he was on site, they kept a close eye out to make sure it was safe for him to climb.

Making it safe for Jeff Bezos to climb

There were precautions taken and a great deal of training for the GE technicians that took Bezos up (and back down!) the 300-plus-foot turbine. To maximize safety, Amazon employees were also given a thorough site orientation and climbing training. The team from Lincoln made sure that everything that happened was within their safety protocols.

“He had a great climbing crew,” said Moore. “And once you get strapped into the harness, you realize what you’re getting into!”

The tower was moving a bit that day, and the climb was high, but Bezos did a great job. Moore said he “looked like a pro up there,” and the event was a lot of fun for everyone. Which Bezos proclaimed in his tweet, complete with drone footage that pulls away to show many other turbines turning.

What about the glass shards from that champagne bottle? Moore said they were careful about that, as well.

“We had concerns about pieces falling all over the tower, but we made sure it wouldn’t present an issue for the turbine in the long term. We were careful to strike a balance between getting a great shot and preserving the safety of the crew and the turbine.”

Back in Washington, D.C., Tim Brown of GE told us that the turbine that Jeff Bezos christened is a GE 2.5-116-90.

He said, “We make them to withstand the strong Texas winds, and champagne bottles as well.”

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