Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 1 : Summer 2009 - Page 47

Wind power – it’s a popular topic these days, from new wind farms to single residential units. As more people join the movement toward a greener energy source, there is an increasing need for the technicians that are responsible for operating, maintaining and repairing them. People from across the state are seeing this opportunity and making the most of it in surprising numbers with the help of a new wind power technology program at Northern Maine Community College. “We knew there was a need for this kind of training, and we hoped that folks from the local communities would take advantage of it, whether they be new to the work force or workers who want or need to be re-trained for a change in careers,” said Alan Punches, vice president and academic dean at the College. “That hope has been greatly surpassed by the level of interest we’ve experienced.” With the first commercial wind farm in Maine located just 14 miles from its campus in Mars Hill, NMCC in neighboring states and provinces, this program will meet both an immediate and an emerging need throughout the region,” said NMCC President Timothy Crowley. “We believe the wind power technology program will provide a valuable and needed resource for entities that erect turbines, as well as excellent placement opportunities for future graduates of the College.” Estimates indicate Aroostook County has the potential to realize 50 to 80 new, long-term, highly skilled technical positions in operation and maintenance for wind farms between 2009 and 2012, with additional job opportunities anticipated in other parts of Maine and Canadian Maritime provinces. A two-year technical degree is the desired credential for entry into these positions. “Educating a skilled workforce to support regional wind projects is an integral part of developing wind power that holds much promise for the economy of northern Maine,” said Maine Public Service Company President and NMCC Above: Wayne Kilcollins, lead instructor for NMCC’s wind program. in Presque Isle gained approval by the Maine Community College System Board of Trustees last fall to offer the first program in New England to train wind power technicians. The associate degree wind power technology program gets underway this August when the NMCC fall semester begins; however, to get things started, the College offered a wind power theories course this spring. The initial course offering had to be expanded to include two additional divisions because 42 students signed up for the class. Due to the high level of interest in the program, NMCC has opted to double the capacity from 18, which is typical of most trade programs, to 36 by running multiple sections of classes. To date, more than 50 students have applied to enter the wind power technology program this fall. “Given the activity in our region, and the discussion statewide about the tremendous potential for further development of wind power throughout Maine, as well as CEO Brent M. Boyles. “We are looking at a whole new industry emerging in our area, which includes constructing a bulk transmission power line to electrically connect northern Maine to New England and creating ‘green’ jobs for wind operators and technicians in the renewable energy sector.” Wayne Kilcollins, who came to NMCC from General Electric Wind Energy – the firm responsible for the maintenance and engineering at the wind farm operated by First Wind on Mars Hill Mountain, has been hired as lead instructor for the program. “Wayne brings not only impressive academic credentials to the job, but of equal importance, practical experience doing exactly the work for which we are preparing the graduates of this program,” said Punches. SUMMER & FALL 09 Wind & Higher Education 45