Nebraska is in the midst of a wind energy boom–it’s one of seven states on track to double
its installed wind capacity in the coming years. Like many rural communities across the U.S., this has brought wide-ranging benefits to the state.
“Wind energy, the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., is transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the federal government gave land to homesteaders 150 years ago,” the Omaha World-Herald reported. “As commodity prices threaten to reach decade lows and farmers struggle to meet debt payments, wind has saved family farms across a wide swath of the heartland. Read more here.
Philip Clement, project director for renewable development at NextEra, said his company will look toward Wayne State and Northeast Community College for employees to be trained in the industry. “That’s the goal, hopefully to develop the skill set in the local areas so we can hire these people to work at the wind farm and keep the people in Wayne,” Clement said. He said the economic benefits include that almost $600,000 in property tax revenues will be generated annually to Wayne County, making it the largest taxpaying entity in the county. The project is estimated to be in operation for about 30 years.
Click here to read the entire article and some of the answers provided during the meeting’s Q&A.
Photo: Dr. Chuck Parker, a Wayne State College professor of economic development, serves as moderator and explains the ground rules for a public meeting Wednesday evening at the Wayne Fire Hall. Before the meeting ended, nearly all 150 chairs were filled along with some people standing. Credit: Norfolk Daily News / Jerry Guenther
By Anna Luke, Into the Wind, American Wind Energy Association Blog
Where are wind tech jobs located?
Most wind tech jobs are located in the center of the country and west coast. This makes
sense – the jobs are near the turbines, and those areas are where most of the country’s wind towers have been built. But there are utility-scale wind projects in 41 states, and every one of those wind farms needs a team of technicians to keep things running smoothly. As wind energy expands to other areas, including offshore development, even more techs will be needed.
NEBRASKA COMMUNITY COLLEGE GAP ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Nebraska’s Community College Gap Assistance Program offers financial aid to community college students taking non-credit courses that could lead to jobs in high-need fields. Eligible fields include renewable energy.
Qualifying applicants are low-income students who would not be eligible for federal financial aid because, although they’re enrolled in college, they are not enrolled in courses for credit that lead directly to a degree.
The program, which launched July 1, 2016, receives 9 percent of the available Nebraska Lottery funds set aside for education every year. This equates to about $1.4 million for FY 2016-17. Gap Program funds will be distributed to the state’s community colleges, which will recruit and select eligible low-income students in identified high-need fields to receive grants.
Eligible students must have a family income at or below 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Student grants can be used for tuition, direct training costs, required books and equipment, and fees, including those for industry testing services and background check services.
In 1998, there were only four wind turbines in the entire state. Now, there are more than 700. But as Nebraska’s wind farms continue to expand, finding trained people to work them has been a challenge. A unique education program is trying to change that . . . According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for wind turbine service technicians is expected to more than double by the year 2024. Last year, turbine service techs took home $53,000 a year, on average. Construction is underway on 81 wind farm projects in 25 states, several of which are in Nebraska. The biggest is theGrande Prairie,near O’Neill, which is expected to have 200 new turbines. Read more.
Photo: Students of Northeast Community College’s wind energy technician program train on the campus’ fully functioning 100-kilowatt turbine. Courtesy photo.
ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING NBC Nebraska: Wind turbine on campus will power, educate college
Central Community College-Hastings will have a wind turbine in operation by the end of December. “We consume a lot of energy on the campus, electrical energy,” said [CCC President Bill Hitesman]. “That will produce enough energy to run the campus at its peak performance.”
The college will be expanding course offerings for students in the renewable fuels field.