At a height of nearly 400 feet, some might say, the North American Wind Research and Training Center will have one of the tallest classrooms in the world.
For the past six weeks, officials of the center have been recruiting and working to select 30 qualified candidates for its inaugural class beginning in August at the Mesalands Community College.
The first students will have an opportunity to help build the program from the ground up, said Tracy Rascoe, director of wind energy training for the center. The students will benefit from participating in the some of the planning for and observing the installation of the center's signature wind turbine, a 1.5 Megawatt General Electric turbine.
Mesalands signed a contract with GE for its turbine which is expected to be installed in the fall on its campus on 11th Street.
Rascoe, who is from Palm Springs, Calif., has established the curriculum for the wind energy technician program. Rascoe has worked for six years for Vestas Americas AS, the U.S. arm of the Danish company which has installed 35,000 wind turbines worldwide and recently opened a blade manufacturing plant in Colorado. At Vestas he was a trainer for four years and site manager of 17 wind farms in Southern Califronia for three years.
He has also worked for Mitsubishi Power Systems, a manufacturer of wind turbines, where he was the training manager of the company's Wind Division in the United States.
Rascoe's previous experience also includes fleet training during his service in the U.S. Navy and as a trainer with an American manufacturer of sonar equipment.
In studies to complete the associate degree in applied science, students will focus on following core areas: electrical, mechanical and hydraulics, Rascoe said.
Throughout the program, there will also be a strong focus on safety, he said.
Some of the work of a technician includes desk work at a computer, so students will receive computer training for certain turbine operations. But, students also will have to be physically fit and prepared to climb nearly 400 feet inside the tower to perform work at a turbine's hub, Rascoe said.
To graduate from the two-year program, it is expected to cost about $5,600 for tuition and fees (excluding books) for an in-state student, based on the 2008 college catalog.
For a student's investment in their education, a graudate could expect to earn $20 or more an hour, or a minimum base pay of $42,000 a year, working as technician at an industrial wind farm, Rascoe said.
Students will participate in summer internships at U.S. wind farms and they have the opportunity to join an international internship program which would give them job experience at wind operations overseas.
It's estimated that there will be 170,000 wind energy related jobs by 2030, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
There are many job opportunities available to graduates, Rascoe said, adding that students will also receive management skills so that they can be prepared for leadership positions in their field.
Applications for the wind energy program are currently being accepted by Mesalands. For more information call 461-4413 or visit their Web site at www.mesalands.edu.