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Wind Energy Jobs by Jim Conley – CSU Extension

HUERFANO- At the current pace of development, it looks like we can expect wind farms to be under construction, or operational, in Huerfano County within the next couple of years.  Couple that with the fact that the Vestas plant has located in Pueblo County, and it looks like southern Colorado will soon be a “wind hub”!  That means JOBS for those who are prepared!

Nationwide, there is growing demand for wind turbine technicians, technologists, engineers and wind energy educators.  This is pressuring universities, community colleges and technical schools to meet that demand and prepare our workforce for the future of wind!!  Community colleges, with a mission to educate our workforce for “real jobs” are leading the way, with universities providing more advanced training for those jobs demanding higher levels of expertise.

If you were interested in a job in wind energy, where would you receive education and training?  I posed that question to a few friends this week, and the general answer was, “I don’t know”.  So, with a few phone calls and some research, here’s a quick list of some schools and community colleges that are leading the way toward those jobs of the future.

Close to home, our own Pueblo Community College has recently added a technician program that prepares people to maintain and build wind turbines and other renewable energy equipment.  Successful students will receive an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in “Energy Maintenance Technology”.   PCC has teamed up with Laramie County (Wyoming) Community College to offer this program.

Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, NM offers one and two year programs in Wind Energy Technology.  These programs provide instruction in wind turbine technology, turbine maintenance, tower safety, and wind economics.

Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater, TX is offering an Associate degree in Wind Energy Technology.  This program provides instruction to “operate and maintain the systems that make a wind turbine function whether it′s an electrical, pneumatic, communications, computer, control or hydraulic system”. TSTC even has an operational wind turbine on campus.

Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma City campus just opened their state’s first wind turbine technology degree program in January.  Their 2-year associates degree will focus on training technicians for jobs in both utility-scale and facilities-scale environments. The program will include classes in electrical, mechanical and hydraulic malfunctions, scheduled maintenance and general service. Training could also include securing site leases, wiring the turbine network to the power grid and designing a wind farm.   In addition to OSU’s program, The Oklahoma City Community College, and the High Plains Technology Center, both offer Wind Energy certificate programs.

Iowa Lakes Community College is developing their Wind Energy and Turbine Technology Program, the first in the state of Iowa. The one year diploma program prepares students for entry-level positions in the wind industry, focusing on construction, maintenance, and operation of wind turbines. The two-year AAS degree prepares students to install, maintain and service wind turbines. Graduates will qualify for entry-level positions and also have the skills and education background to become a wind turbine operator and potentially a supervisor. Both programs prepare students to support Iowa’s growing wind infrastructure as companies rush to build renewable energy generation.

Lake Shore Technical College, in Wisconsin is offering a two-year AAS program in Wind Energy Technology. The program prepares students for increasing job opportunities in both the US and Canada wind energy industry. Upon completion of the program students will be ready to function as a: Wind Turbine Technician/Mechanic/Tower Climber; Installation Technician; Operation and Maintenance Technician; and Wind Farm Maintenance Manager.

The wind has been part of the history of Huerfano County.  It’s destined to impact our future in ways that our pioneer forefathers could have never imagined!  Preparing for the renewable energy economy today may offer rewards tomorrow.