Third Minnesota college adds wind turbine programby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Riverland Community College will begin offering a wind turbine technician program this fall, to train students to for careers in the rapidly developing alternative energy industry.
The Albert Lea-based program will address the growing demand for trained personnel to repair and install the increasing number of turbines used in the renewable energy industry.
"The wind turbine program will provide graduates the opportunity to enter into a high-demand field and provide students with an education that gives them a competitive edge in today's economy," said Steve Bowron, dean of career and technical education for Riverland Community College.
The program has already received 48 applications for its 24 slots. Another 30 students have expressed interest. Bowron said the program is likely to attract both traditional students and dislocated workers.
The program is currently taking applications for fall 2009. Enrollment will begin next week.
Riverland's wind turbine program is the third such program in the state. Minnesota West Community and Technical College started a similar program 15 years ago at its Canby campus. Enrollment in that program has doubled in the past year.
Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, based in Virginia, also offers an energy technology specialist program with a concentration in wind technology.
"This has been a boom to our rural community," said Gary Gillin, dean of communication and enrollment at Minnesota West. "The technicians are in high demand."
The Minnesota States Colleges and Universities system provided a $48,000 grant to develop Riverland's program.
Riverland Community College serves about 4,000 students each year in credit-based programs. An additional 4,800 students are enrolled in non-credit courses.
Minnesota is the nation's fourth largest wind energy producer. The amount of wind power generated nationwide increased by about 50 percent last year.
There are 1,419 commerical turbines in Minnesota, according to the state's Office of Energy Security.