First Degree Program in Wind Energy
Officials from Highland Community College (HCC) and EcoEnergy officially broke ground in early October for a facility to house the HCC Wind Turbine Technology Program, the first associates’ degree program of its kind offered in the state of Illinois.
The event also included the donation of the facility’s first dedicated tool from Greenlee-Textron, the Rockford, Ill.-based manufacturer of tools for the electrical industry which will supply tools to the program.
The wind tech program, which opened with a full class of 16 students this fall, is expected to move into the new facility in the first quarter of 2009. The new 5,500 square-foot facility will feature a training area where students can work on the components and subassemblies of a turbine nacelle (hub) without needing to climb a 300-foot tower for class. The facility will also house a hydraulics lab, classroom space, a shop area, mechanical room and storage.
“We’re extremely proud to be a part of this program,” said EcoEnergy President Shawn Gaffney. “EcoEnergy develops alternative energy projects using wind power, solar power, biofuels and cogeneration, and as we grow, we see the need for highly-trained people to maintain all of this high-tech machinery. We see alternative energy not only as an important power source for our nation’s future, but as an equally important source of good, steady jobs.”
Wind energy, a clean, green alternative to burning fossil-fuel generated electricity, is the fastest-growing segment of the energy industry today. This fast expansion calls for an ever-growing supply of technicians with specialized high-tech knowledge.
Wind energy, in fact, is one of the few bright spots on the job horizon, with the need for hundreds of qualified wind technicians in the next few years in Illinois alone.
“Entry-level wind technicians can expect to make $30,000 to $35,000 a year, and graduates from wind tech programs usually find good jobs very soon after graduation,” said Dave Vrtol, HCC wind tech program instructor and Illinois Wind Project Manager for EcoEnergy.
EcoEnergy is an alternative energy solutions developer and a unit of the Morse Group, headquartered in Freeport, IL. The Morse Group of Companies, with over $150 million in revenue, unites renewable energy project development, specialty engineering, design, industrial products, construction and automation services to provide commercial, industrial and utility markets throughout North America with electrical and energy solutions. Incorporated in Freeport, Illinois in 1944, the Morse Group has offices in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nevada.