Oregon Community College
by Associated Press
THE DALLES, Ore. -- Wanted: Technicians willing to climb to the top of 250-foot towers and spend 12 hours there. Resistance to vertigo required. Interest in alternative power sources a plus.
The Columbia Gorge Community College is planning to train technicians for the wind energy industry that is growing rapidly in the region.
Curriculum Director Susan Wolff said interest in the new program is high, but it may not be for everyone.
"They may look and say, 'Gee, I don't think I can climb 250 feet,' and they may self-select out," she said.
The program is expected to start in full in September, with a shorter training period in January.
Current and proposed wind farms in Oregon and Washington are expected to require about 365 "wind turbine technicians" over the coming decade, according to a paper on the college wind program. The need for technicians rises at a rate of about eight jobs per 100 megawatts of installed power generation capacity.
"Bonneville Power Administration estimates new wind power capacity growing at the rate of 300 to 400 megawatts annually," the abstract notes, with about 2,600 megawatts expected in Oregon and Washington by 2011.
The closest training facility for wind technicians is in Minnesota. As a result, current wind farms can expect a shortage of trained technicians, which will escalate as more wind farms are built.
Wolff said she plans to meet soon with officials at Portland Community College to work on the program. Columbia Gorge operates under PCCs accreditation. Students who attend the local college receive credit from the Portland college. Interest in the program from potential workers has been strong, Wolff said.
"We've had a whole bunch of people respond," she said. "We're able to accept only 20 people and over 60 people have requested packets."
While the high-growth wind industry is the primary focus of the project, the scope could also be expanded to include other renewable energy workforce training needs, such as solar and biofuel/biomass.
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