James Madison University received an $800,000 grant through the State Energy Program to build a small wind testing and training facility. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of summer 2011. The university's existing 1 kW wind turbine is pictured above. | Photo courtesy of Remy Luerssen/JMU
Virginia wants to green its workforce, and it’s looking to James Madison University to help make it happen.
The State Energy Program awarded the University’s Center for Wind Energy $800,000 in Recovery Act funds to build a wind testing and training center, a new project geared towards both students and companies in the state that may want to break into the wind industry.
“We can reach out to potential industries that may be interested in this area,” says Jonathan Miles, a professor in the department of integrated science and technology and director of the Center for Wind Energy. “And without this facility, it would be hard to provide the level of support that this will enable.”
JMU has an existing 1 kW turbine that will be moved to a yet-to-be-determined location and be joined by a new 5 to 10 kW turbine, along with other wind and weather monitoring devices.
Growing a wind workforce
The wind training center will be a place for companies to send its workers to learn about small wind turbines, like how to install, operate and maintain the systems.
“One of the things that we expect to grow is the workforce,” Miles says. “For instance, a company that does crane work may see an opportunity here. With this center, they could get people trained and certified.”
“And we’ve identified a lot more companies than we expected that are interested to engage,” he adds.
Miles expects JMU, which is a designated U.S. Department of Energy “Wind for Schools” university, to break ground in May or June 2011, with the project completed by the end of that summer.
Training existing workers is important to the state and the university as is engaging the upcoming workforce. The new center will be wrapped into the school’s curriculum, Miles says, which has classes like “Role of Energy in Modern Society” and “Sustainable Energy Development.”
“It’s about expanding what we already offer,” he says. “We have some classes that touch on wind energy, but we want to expose students to a greater number of aspects pertaining to wind. I envision an entire course on wind energy. Maybe even wind as a minor.”
Watch this video to hear Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling announce the grant during a keynote address at the annual Virginia Wind Energy Symposium in June. Miles also provides his insight on the new training center.