North Dakota is home to the Lake Region State College (LRSC) which has a wind energy tech program that started in 2009 and is the only one of its kind in the whole state. The program is a 2-year degree and students are expected to make over $50,000 annually upon graduation, thanks to a booming industry in the Midwest Unites States.
Funding by ESG Honeywell, an energy tech manufacturer, and legislative appropriation, allowed the school to install a 300ft and 1.6MW wind turbine back in Feb 2013. The project cost a total of $7.2 million and is located approx. 3 miles north and 1 mile west of the school’s campus. The most interesting part of this project is the fact that the wind turbine generates almost all the school’s electricity. Any excess energy produced by the turbine is sold to Otter Tail Power Co., based in Fergus Falls, Minn. The amount of money the school receives from selling the excess power will allow them to pay off the wind turbine in about 15 years of operation.
Jay Johnson, one of the instructors at LRSC, said, “”The tower really a fantastic thing for the program… it’s like trying to have a flight school without an airplane — you’ve got to have it.”
He goes on to discuss the most important aspect of the wind energy tech program… safety:
“We’re training people to work in the utility industry. There’s definitely risk in the job. There’s hazard, there’s a probability that hazard is going to hurt you, but utilities are really safe jobs because even if there are hazards, the safety protocols are so well established and they take them so seriously that the number of incidents is really low.”
The students begin by working on wind turbine components at ground level before moving up to the real deal. Many of the equipment they practice on in the classroom have been donated to assist their learning.