Wind energy officials get tour of trainer
DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
Vantage Career Center has long had an interest in alternative energy, an interest proven by a solar array installed at the school that provides nearly half of Vantage’s electric power at bargain prices and its wind turbine maintenance training program, which recently got a boost with the purchase of a Nacelle Wind Turbine Training System.
Pete Prichard, director of Vantage’s Ohio Technical Center, its adult education program, hosted a tour of the trainer Thursday for Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Susan Munroe; Sarah Moser, Ohio development manager for Apex Clean Energy, and Scott Koziar, Apex’s senior director of project development; and Anna Luke, deputy director of community and online engagement for the American Wind Energy Association, the national trade association for wind energy companies.
He was assisted by Pete Weir, representing Northwest State Community College, which has partnered with Vantage on a number of adult education training programs.
Prichard noted that the $80,000 device, which was purchased for Vantage by EDP Renewables, allows Vantage adult education students in the wind turbine maintenance program to perform hands-on maintenance on a fully-functioning scale model of a wind turbine head.
The maintenance program enhancement comes at a good time for Vantage, Munroe said, because of a recent announcement by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the wind turbine technician job category will be the fastest growing category over the next 10 years.
“A wind turbine technician … is the fastest growing profession in the country,” Luke said. “People are always really surprised by that.”
In fact, Vantage is one of only a few technical schools with a wind turbine technician training program — and a Nacelle trainer, Luke added.
“…which is a pretty incredible accomplishment for the county,” she said. “And these jobs are so in demand.”
Luke said wind turbine technicians also have a high placement rate: 90 percent and higher.
“These kids are basically guaranteed jobs once they have completed their training,” she added.
Those who graduate from the Vantage program could service the county’s more than 150 wind turbines, or find jobs all over the U.S., since wind energy is a thriving industry.
Prichard also noted the older wind turbines get, the more maintenance they require, which means more technicians are needed to maintain them. While
He noted that the wind turbine maintenance program is mostly an add-on to Vantage’s industrial maintenance program, since the skills needed in that course of study are also needed to maintain wind turbines.
The new Nacelle trainer will also be used by Vantage’s high school science classes, with Vantage science teachers already tasked with developing a lesson plan for the trainer for their high school students.
“All of the students have to take science, so as opposed to trying to figure out what lab it goes to, every person will get a little bit of exposure to this in their science class, so that gets them thinking, Prichard said.
He added that Vantage has not hired an instructor for the program, but noted that maintenance technicians from the local Blue Creek Wind Farm might be interested in providing training for Vantage students. And those technicians’ hands-on experience would be very valuable to the training program, Prichard added.
Meanwhile, although the legislative climate hasn’t been good for wind energy the last couple of years because of restrictive setback requirements that limit the number of wind turbines that can be installed in a particular area, Moser and Koziar said that’s likely to change soon.
“AEP has released [information] that they are starting to rebrand and focus on renewables and move away from fossils [fuel],” Koziar said, “so I think you’re going to see a large build-out in Ohio coming.”
Moser said state legislators are also getting more and more pressure to ease up on wind energy restrictions, especially because of their recent action in seeking to remove restrictions on shale oil exploration.
That also means more wind turbine technicians will likely be needed in the future, which makes the Vantage program even more important, Moser said.
“We need to be ready, we need to start planning … ahead of time,” she said. “It’s a training that takes time.”