Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City

OSU-OKC developing track for wind technicians

The Journal Record 7/31/2008


OKLAHOMA CITY – Degree programs offered at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City include power transmission and distribution technology.


Students in the program are trained to work as linemen in the electrical power transmission industry, including Oklahoma Gas & Electric, municipal systems and electric cooperatives, said Jerry Nielsen, head of the Science and Engineering Technology Division.


Now to meet anticipated growing demand for a new set of skills for the power transmission and distribution industry, OSU-OKC is developing a wind technology technician program. The school has filed a letter of intent with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to start the program in 2009. The OSU regents have already approved the program.


To get the program started, OSU-OKC plans to offer a one-hour credit wind power course this fall. The course will meet on Monday nights for eight weeks. The school also plans to develop programs for electric power industry meter technicians and relay technicians.


The amount of electricity generated from wind turbines has been increasing as utilities seek more environmentally friendly power sources.


“We spoke with OG&E and other energy industry partners to evaluate their needs,” said Jerry Carroll, OSU-OKC president. “They kept coming back to us with this one growing need – to train a local work force as wind techs.”


Demand is growing nationwide for wind turbine technicians – although the terminology is evolving. Job search Web site openings include wind turbine engineers, turbine technologists and wind technicians.


OSU-OKC proposes a two-year associate in applied science degree focusing training in two types of wind turbine facilities – utility-scale and facilities-scale, Nielsen said. Utility-scale turbines are designed to produce electricity to be sold to consumers. Facilities-scale turbines provide electricity for a specific facility.


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.


“They have to set up the wind turbines in a particular order to get the maximum effect of the wind,” Nielsen said.


Just like the current lineman training begins with climbing poles, Nielsen expects wind technician training to start with climbing the turbines.


“Some of them are capable students but they do not like to climb the poles,” he said. “So they learn pretty quickly if they want to stay or go.”


OSU-OKC has poles on the campus at 900 N. Portland Ave. to train the linemen. The school is applying for grants to build a wind turbine on campus to train the wind technicians, he said.


Demand for linemen is expected to increase – within the next several years many of the current linemen nationwide will be reaching retirement age.


“We need to bring in new linemen to replace them,” Nielsen said. “So the job market should remain strong.”


OSU-OKC has created a network of potential employers for the lineman program. An average of 25 students enter the program each fall and most have job offers well before completing the two-year program, Nielsen said.


A similar network for employers is expected to be developed for the wind technician program and demand is expected to increase quickly. Last year, 3,200 new wind turbines were installed across the nation, according to the American Wind Energy Association.


But, Nielsen said, it is hard to project how many wind turbine technician jobs will be available.


“It is such a new industry, wind technician is not even listed in the labor statistics,” he said.



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