30 in Their Thirties: Jesse Tarr // 33

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Jesse Tarr // 33  

President // Wind Secure, Lake Orion // Employees: 12 // Revenue: NA

Northern Michigan University

When Jesse Tarr drove between home in Oakland County and Northern Michigan University in Marquette for school, he passed two industrial wind turbines at the Mackinac Bridge. “I was awed by them,” he says. “Being entrepreneurial, I saw what I thought were some pretty big opportunities with these (turbine) foundations,” Tarr says. During construction, Tarr noted how badly some of the anchor bolts — with an expected 25-year life cycle — were corroding. On his own, Tarr sold protective plastic caps for the bolts that would prevent rust. 

From there, he worked with the country’s largest wind turbine installer and oversaw construction. When that relationship ended in 2009, his prospects took a turn for the better. “What ended up happening is that I got a phone call one day to go back to the (first phase of the) wind farm I had constructed and check the anchor bolts,” he says. He soon discovered the foundations of the $6-million turbines had been neglected, and the exposed steel anchor bolts were rusty and loose. 

Even worse, the foundations were cracking. Tarr got periodic requests to maintain other turbine foundations on other wind farms in the next three years while he developed his own business. He eventually got a request to determine how much tension was on the anchor bolts. Even though he had little knowledge of how to determine the actual stress, Tarr assured the customer that he could do it. “It’s (really) not that complicated. There’s a pretty simple equation you can use for calculating the elongation of steel. All I did was connect a few more dots to it.” 

That endeavor led to Tarr filing for a utility patent on the process. He’s since written best practices for turbine foundation maintenance for the American Wind Energy Association, and chairs AWEA’s operations and maintenance working group. 

Tarr’s business has grown so much he’s worked in 10 different states. Close to home, he’s worked on a wind farm in the Thumb area and one in Ludington, in addition to those turbines at the Mackinac Bridge that first inspired him. “That was a really great day (when I worked on the Mackinac Bridge turbines),” he says. — Ilene Wolff

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