New turbines don’t need a lot of attention. But as one condition-monitoring expert recently remarked, no turbine runs better with age. The industry will need a steady supply of technicians to maintain the thousands of turbines coming off warranties. How can interested people connect with such long-term work? Brian Crowe, project manager at the Iowa Depart of Economic Development (www.iowa.gov), says the answer is through training. But where can interested persons find it?
“For the wind industry Iowa blends an interest in wind with know-how in the manufacturing of large machinery,” says Crowe. The state provides educational institutions that focus on various aspects of the market and how to support it. He says there are many technician training programs available, such as community colleges where students can study operation and maintenance. With a hands-on approach, students will actually climb towers and do the work of real technicians.
“One place would be the Iowa Community Colleges,” he says. “The training programs at several community state colleges can give interested people a foot on the first rung of the wind-industry ladder, he says. Three state-supported universities also have programs for the engineering minded.
Probably the most established community college is the one at Iowa Lakes. It is one of two in the state that has received the AWEA‘s Wind Turbine Service Technician Program Seal of Approval, says Crowe. “They do a lot of wind training. Some graduate technicians stay in state while others travel the country servicing machines and setting up met towers for siting assessments. Students at the college have access to a 1.65 MW working turbine as an educational lab. They will climb the turbine in the first classes to get a feel for what is expected of them. (From the Iowa Lakes CC website: Average starting technician salary is $35,000 to $40,000 entry level wages and benefits. Responsibilities vary.)
State regents have also set up collaborations with community and private colleges in the state. The Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation (firstname.lastname@example.org) works with companies at different universities to address challenges and recruit students to basic research functions in the mechanical, electrical, and structural disciplines. This allows bringing in state resources and dedicating them to, for example, basic and applied research, efficiency of manufacturing, and nondestructive testing of wind blades. Crowe adds that the state has also made training dollars available to manufacturers or companies that do business in Iowa.
The Alliance says its goal is to fuse the state community colleges with the universities, state agencies, federal agencies, Iowa wind industries, and community and partners associations. The organization says it supports the state’s efforts to continue to attract and nurture wind energy and related industries.
Crowe points out that the Midwest is well positioned to respond to the need for renewable energy and to take advantage of the opportunity in this growth industry. Iowa is just about the center of the nation’s wind resource. The combination of supportive renewable energy policies, logistic and supply chain efficiencies, competitive business climate, and a heritage of manufacturing has led to an active and growing wind-energy industry in Iowa. Key elements in future growth is the combination of the available wind resource for new wind farms and the increasing demand for renewable-electricity production. The Alliance website says the state’s key areas of wind energy include:
- Basic and applied research and technology transfer in support of location, design, manufacturing, control, data acquisition and monitoring, construction and operations of wind power devices and facilities
- Training and education focused on wind power including programs at the community colleges, at universities in undergraduate and graduate studies, and continuing education for industry.
- Testing facilities for certification, testing, and design of key wind-power components, such as gear boxes, blades, and structures
- Policies and actions that support demand for renewable energy.
The state continues its success in wind with recent developments with MidAmerican Energy and Siemens that will change the landscape of wind energy for Iowa and the U.S.
Iowa Lakes Community College
Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation
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