Schools Enter Wind Power Arena

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At Highland Community College Friday, the only sign of any wind power education that we found was on a blackboard. But these two men are leading plans to speed it up with a new wind turbine technician program. "Basically, the main job of this person after graduation would be the operation and maintenance of wind turbine machines," said Scott Anderson, Associate Dean of Business and Technology at Highland. Anderson and Shawn Gaffney, who works for an alternative energy company called EcoEnergy, say this two-year program at the college's Technology center will spin out qualified workers needed in a growing industry. "The wind industry is growing 20 percent per year for the last three years and it's projected to continue in that direction," Gaffney said. This program is only a plan right now. But Anderson says people are already calling with interest. And interest in wind power is blowing to other local schools. We could see a "turbine test" at Freeport Junior High in a couple months. "We've been talking most recently about erecting a test tower to see what wind velocity is in our area over a period of time," said Peter Flynn, Superintendent of Freeport District 145. Flynn says the school district likes the idea of wind power to cut energy costs and be "green." He says a single turbine would probably work and especially at the junior high because of its elevation. "We don't anticipate having wind turbines all over the district in a lot of different locations," Flynn said. So the wind is picking up in Stephenson County, from junior high to college. Superintendent Flynn says there's not a specific date yet for the wind turbine test. Right now the district is just talking with vendors. As for the new technician program at H-C-C, that could start next fall if approval comes from the local and state community college boards.