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Oklahoma Partners Work to Harness Wind Power

 

The wind industry is sweeping down the plains with one of Oklahoma’s valuable natural resources providing renewable energy, boosting the state’s economy.windturbine sm

As plans for this expanding industry develop, jobs are predicted to open up in wind energy production. Oklahoma’s CareerTech system and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce are working together to develop education programs related to wind power technology to ensure that Oklahoma is ready to take hold of the wind energy industry.

According to information from the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative, Oklahoma has about 2.3 times more wind energy potential per square mile than Texas.  It is estimated that Oklahoma will be the second largest generator of wind power in the nation by 2030, generating 9 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Wind Development Specialist Kylah McNabb was hired through the CareerTech and Commerce partnership to advance this initiative and help develop training.  A former researcher at the University of Oklahoma, McNabb has been project manager for a large wind development company for the two years prior to her work at Commerce.

“Oklahoma’s CareerTech system is working to engage industry partners while incorporating existing programs such as basic math and computer skills, machine skills, and AC/DC electronic theory. New programs for safety, general wind energy and climb tests are being created,” McNabb said.

Additionally, representatives from the Department of Commerce recently attended the European Wind Energy Conference in Marseille, France to talk with leading wind companies about developing operations in Oklahoma.

Kylah McNabb smCommerce expects jobs to open up for wind turbine technicians, operation and maintenance managers, construction, transmission linemen, manufacturing and more.

“The hope is that Oklahoma becomes a hub of activity focused on manufacturing of wind turbines and parts, training, industry research and development,” said Natalie Shirley, Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce and Tourism.

Oklahoma CareerTech Director Phil Berkenbile agrees.

“One way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make long-term investments like wind energy that lead to new jobs, new industries and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world,” Berkenbile said.

Several of Oklahoma’s 29 technology centers are beginning to implement training and safety courses to supply the steadily growing need for educated wind industry technicians.

High Plains Technology Center in Woodward is teaching courses on wind power while continuing to build curriculum.

Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City has just kicked off its wind turbine technician program in partnership with Jet Stream Tower Services. This seven-week program includes training in wind turbine installation, preventive and predictive maintenance, and repairs.

Autry Technology Center in Enid recently installed its own small wind turbine Model 250 to provide energy to the tech center and training to students enrolled in introductory courses on wind power.

Red River Technology Center in Duncan has also purchased a wind turbine to provide renewable energy, and to use in the electronics program.  Data is being collected from the wind turbine daily.

As part of a mission to become “greener” Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno will now be powered 100 percent by wind energy.

“During this time of economic uncertainty, one thing is sure, career and technology education in Oklahoma stands ready to meet the challenges of the state’s work force and help our state’s businesses and industries thrive,” Berkenbile said.

According to Shirley, wind power will have a direct impact on job market sectors like construction, truck drivers, maintenance workers, road crews, gas and gas station workers, blade towers, hardware stores, parts stores and their suppliers. An indirect effect will touch industries in banking and financing, manufacturers and contractors. Increased economic activity will then lead to increased spending benefiting others such as grocery store clerks, retail salespeople and child care providers.

Commerce department estimates indicate the industry could produce $500 million in tax revenue and 18,000 jobs for Oklahomans during the next 10 years. Within five years, the wind industry could create 6,919 jobs across the state with salaries ranging from $44,900 the first year to $60,400 by the fifth year.

Within next five years the commerce department expects $1.48 billion in total personal income to be created from the wind energy industry alone.  The total impact on Oklahoma’s economy, represented by gross domestic product, is predicted to be more than $2.48 billion.

“CareerTech will play a major role in overcoming this economic downturn by training new workers, providing training to upgrade skills, and helping with the development of new businesses,” Berkenbile said.

To help Oklahoma companies, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and communities explore the many business and economic development opportunities involved with Oklahoma's emerging wind industry, Commerce will hold Wind Commerce 2009: The Future is Now on June 23-24 at the Norman Embassy Suites.

For more information about Oklahoma’s wind power initiatives visitwww.okiswindenergy.com For information about CareerTech’s involvement in this initiative visit http://www.okcommerce.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2795.

Written by: Katie Gruntmeir

Publish Date: April 24, 2009

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