Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Wind Energy Training Program at VTC

Vermont Technical College students installing an anemometer (Courtesy photo).

Daniel Costin

As the program chair for the Renewable Energy Engineering Technology degree program at Vermont Technical College (VTC), I have oversight of the process to determine what subjects are taught. The key to this process is the involvement of an active advisory board from the renewable energy industry. These are the people who will be hiring our graduates.

So even though wind energy installation is stalled in Vermont, we are still teaching the class to our students. Here are some reasons. First, there are many opportunities in wind energy outside Vermont. The main ones are along the New England coast as projects such as Vineyard Wind are installed. In fact, part of the workforce development of that project is to create an Offshore Wind 101 class to be taught in vocational schools, high schools, and community colleges in Massachusetts. Also, they are developing specific training programs for offshore wind technicians, which includes training on specific equipment to be installed. Our program at VTC has the potential to support and supplement the training done for Massachusetts residents. Second, there are still opportunities at existing wind installations in Vermont. One-sixth of Vermont’s electricity generation comes from wind power. Third, wind energy construction may resume if legislation is adjusted to make permitting a little easier.

What we teach in our wind energy class is a mixture of design and site development. We start with the study and measurement of the wind. Some math is needed to accurately describe the variations of wind speed that occur as a function of altitude, and the variations as a function of time due to turbulence. We measure wind speed with instruments on our 100 ft anemometer tower. This tower has been in service for many years, and this year we are lowering it down for an overhaul. Anchors and cables will be inspected, and the students will replace the instruments. Once the systems have been checked, the tower will be raised again. AllEarthRenewables has offered to help with the safe raising and lowering of the tower. Once the instruments are working, the students learn how to download the data for further analysis and checking.

As engineers, our students know how to build structures and analyze them to make sure they will stand up to the loads. Basic strength calculations are done on towers and bolted joints. They also do some aerodynamic design of wind turbine blades.

Students learn how to take data to determine the power curve of a wind turbine. The power curve shows how much power the turbine will produce as a function of the wind speed. Students learn how to make adjustments for altitude and temperature to standardize data. Raw data from wind turbines connected to Wind for Schools OpenEI is used in this process.

Wind turbines, like other sources of energy, have impacts, and research into impacts is part of any good development process. Students learn the visual, noise, water, and ecological impact of wind development. Noise calculations are an aspect of the class that is very math-intensive. Wind turbines also affect each other. Given limited land available for development, students need to understand how the wind is reduced in the area downwind of the turbine and predict the energy production for any given group of wind turbines.

Renewable energy is a business, and like all businesses the costs and revenues need to be analyzed. The cost-effectiveness of wind is very sensitive to the wind resource. Students in our program take several business classes so they know how do calculate and present cash flow and break-even point for projects.

The final project in this class usually consists of a development plan for a wind turbine or group of wind turbines. Some students do a project plan for a wind turbine net-metering project for their high school. Others look at feasibility of wind turbines for coastal Alaska or Caribbean islands.

VTC offers two- and four-year degrees in several engineering disciplines, but we also support apprenticeship and certificate programs. Our Office of Continuing Education and Workforce Development (CEWD) coordinates these career-focused classes. We offer Green Trainings in HVAC, Indoor Air Quality, and Building Performance Institute (BPI) training. In the past we have offered a solar PV class, and we are hoping to offer it again soon. As the climate workforce expands to meet the need, our certification programs can expand as well.

Daniel Costin works at Vermont Technical College as an Assistant Professor – Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering Technology and Renewable Energy Program Chair.

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