Posts Tagged ‘renewable energy’

Meet Sarah Wright- Founder of Utah Clean Energy

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Sarah_Wright

Do you have an interest in puzzles? Do you like to figure out how something works? That’s where it all started for Sarah Wright. Driven by this curiosity, Sarah became involved with science in school and followed a related career path. Today, she is the founder of Utah Clean Energy and one of the women honored by Women of Wind Energy. WoWe recognized Sarah “for her accomplishments in promoting wind, renewable energy, and efficiency within her state. She effectively fostered diverse partnerships with state agencies, municipal governments, industry, agriculture, and community groups to advance clean energy solutions, and serves as an intervener in regulatory proceedings and a witness in legislative hearings. She also serves on the governor’s Energy Advisory Council and the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change.” ATETV caught up with Sarah this week to discuss her career further.

What is your background?
I have a BS in Geology from Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois and a Master of Science in Public Health from the University of Utah.

How did this lead to your career in renewable energies specifically? Why did you choose this area?
My career path to renewable energy was not exactly direct. My first job out of school was exploration geology for oil, gas and coal. From there I went back to school and then moved into environmental, ambient air quality and occupational health consulting serving industry partners across the West for 15 years. When my son was about two years old, I finally followed my passion, quit my stable consulting job and started exploring ways to utilize my project management, science, industry and regulatory expertise to help create a more sustainable energy industry framework.

This was in 2000 and anyone that was remotely watching energy issues in 2000-2001 remembers the California Energy ‘crisis’ and Enron debacle that had ripple effects across the entire West. At that point many Utah voices were promoting building more coal plants and transmission lines as the best solution to our energy challenges. Seeing a better way, I stepped in and started volunteering in the energy policy and utility regulatory arenas advocating for energy efficiency and renewable energy. I received incredible support and mentoring from clean energy advocates across the West and ended up starting Utah Clean Energy, a non-profit, non-partisan public interest group committed to stopping energy waste, driving clean energy development and building a smart energy future.

What is it like to run your own business?
Given that my business is running a non-profit working to advance clean energy, an issue that I’m passionate about, I love my job. A key for me was knowing my strengths and weaknesses then building a well-rounded team of passionate, smart and extremely capable people and empowering them to excel in whatever role they play for the success of the organization’s mission to lead and accelerate the clean energy transformation with vision and expertise.

What characteristics do you think make you successful in both (as an entrepreneur and as a scientist)?
Honestly, I don’t get to do much science these days. But what makes me successful as a social entrepreneur might be my ability to see the big picture, examine how it all fits together and what levers need to be pulled to facilitate the changes necessary for success. Passion, perseverance, patience and belief in humanity also helps.

Tell us about the Utah Wind Power Campaign?
The Utah Wind Power Campaign is in flux right now. It was a project of Utah Clean Energy, Utah’s State Energy Program in partnership with the Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America Program working collaboratively in a number of arenas to advance wind development in Utah. Due to funding cuts, Utah Clean Energy’s work to advance wind power is now focused on regulatory and policy advocacy to ensure that wind power competes with other energy sources on a level playing field.

It must have been frustrating to have the funding cut. Can you tell us where you see progress being made in the field?
It is unfortunate that some priorities have changed, but we are still making progress removing barriers and ensuring wind competes on a level playing field with other resources in utility planning, procurement, grid access and integration.

How has being a female contributed to your professional experience? What are the related challenges/ opportunities?
Being a professional woman offers both opportunities and challenges. As a change maker, working collaboratively, listening and understanding different perspectives and being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes are critical to success, regardless of gender. On the flip side, there are times when you need to be firm and stand your ground, and I admit that I have been intimidated in certain situations and sadly there is a segment of our society that is uncomfortable with strong women and views them in negative light.

Based on your experience- as a woman, entrepreneur, scientist and leader- do you have any advice for those just starting out? What keeps you going?
Follow your passion, network, don’t be afraid to ask for help and mentoring and keep at it.

If you could do it all over, would you make the same choices? Why? Why not?
I would have taken the leap sooner, left my stable consulting position and followed my passion to create a better future earlier in my career.

Sarah created opportunity for herself by applying her skills and talents to help solve a problem and address a greater need. Think you might also be interested in a career in renewable energy? Why not check out the American Wind Energy Association? They offer up-to-the-minute information on careers, education and industry. Some of which may be just what you need to help you get started!

How Do You Grow A Green Workforce?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

How Do You Grow A Green Workforce?

Last year, the New York Times reported that “Green-collar jobs have grabbed the public’s attention, and educational institutions are starting programs to train the managers who will oversee the technologies, manufacturing processes and materials that will be used to conserve energy and help safeguard natural resources.”

Furthermore, according to the Times, community colleges have been leading the way in developing these green training programs. As Roger Ebbage, director of energy programs at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon noted in the article, graduates of the energy programs are now working in a wide variety of sectors throughout the country, including utility companies, engineering jobs, in school districts, cities and the military.

Today there are a multitude of both degree and certificate training options available in a wide variety of green specialties – from wind technology and solar cell design to energy audits and weatherization. Here are just a few examples of the ways that community colleges are preparing for the growth in green jobs:

*Besides being environmentally friendly, renewable energy sources are necessary to offset rising fuel costs. At Red Rocks Community College in Arvada, Colorado, the Renewable Energy Technology program offers degrees and certificates in a number of specialties, including Solar Photovoltaic; Solar Thermal; Wind Energy Technology; and Energy Efficiency (Energy Audit) certification.

*Michigan’s Lansing Community College was among the nation’s first schools to incorporate alternative energy into its curricula, offering an Associate’s Degree in Alternative Energy Engineering Technologies. Students enrolled in this program study wind, solar, geothermal, energy efficiency, and bio-mass/gas energy production systems to develop an understanding of the challenges and opportunities in developing a renewable energy economy.

*Meanwhile, the New England Institute of Technology in Warwick, Rhode Island, has “greened” its existing curriculum, , expanding its Heating Technology curriculum to include Solar Technology; adding Gray Water Technology and Rain Water Harvesting to the course offerings in its Plumbing Technology Program; and rolling out classes in Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Hybrid Vehicles in its Automotive Technology program.

*The College of DuPage in Ellyn, Illinois, has not only added a Renewable Energy Certificate to its Electronics Technology (including the installation of of two windmills and four solar panels on the roof of the school’s Technical Education Center), but has made an existing green program even greener by stressing eco-friendly trends in its Sustainable Landscapes Certificate program.

*The Green Technician Certification Program at Houston Community College is specifically geared to two new and emerging occupations – Weatherization Technicians and Energy Auditors, while the Sustainable Energy Technician degree program at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, Oregon emphasizes the growing fields of energy conservation and renwable energy production.

*And, even health care can be green. The Green Healthcare Training Program at Rose State College in Midwest City, Oklahoma offers Certificate classes for health-care technicians in identifying environmental waste and understanding its impact, reducing the medical waste stream, reducing energy and water usage, as well as identifying and using available resources.

Word of the Day: Nacelle

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Wind TurbineDo you think you have a good vocabulary? Here’s one for you: What is the definition of “nacelle”? We’ll give you a few clues.

Clue #1: A wind turbine couldn’t function without one. Wind turbines are the towering windmill-style mechanisms that convert the flow of wind into the mechanical motion that is used to produce electricity. Today, wind power accounts for about 50 percent of our country’s renewable energy and, according to the American Wind Energy Association, is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the world today. Among the more than 8,000 parts that make up a wind turbine are three major components: the blades, the tower and the nacelle.

Clue #2: They frequently require the services of Wind Techs. Wind Turbine Service Technicians, or “wind techs” are the men and women who provide regular maintenance for wind turbines — especially the nacelles. According to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics wind techs are capable of diagnosing and fixing any problem that might require a wind turbine to shut down, and they perform much of their daily work in nacelles.

Clue #3: They’re bigger than the proverbial bread box, and sometimes large enough for a helicopter to land upon.

If, by now, you’re thinking that the nacelle is the “brain” of the wind turbine, you’re right. Derived from the French word for “small boat,” the nacelle is the compact space that houses the turbine’s gears, generator and other mechanical components. The nacelle also contains the complex electronic components that enable the turbine to monitor changes in wind speed and direction in order to turn wind into useable energy. (To learn more, check out “How Wind Turbines Work” from the U.S. Department of Energy.)

And, if the nacelle is the brain of the wind turbine, then Wind Techs are the brain surgeons, keeping these complex components functioning smoothly. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wind Turbine Service Technicians actually perform the majority of their daily work inside the nacelles’ compact space at the top of the tower, as they clean and lubricate shafts, bearings, gears and other machinery, and troubleshoot potential generator problems. Wind techs may also work outside on top of the nacelle, hundreds of feet in the air, replacing the instruments that measure wind speed and direction.

Training programs in wind turbine maintenance are offered at community colleges across the country, and generally include course work in basic turbine design, diagnositics, control and monitoring systems, as well as basic turbine repair. Many programs, like the one at Laramie County Community College featured in this week’s Episode, also offer students hands-on training. Check out the Windustry web site for a full list of educational programs.

And, just think, you’re already ahead of the game — you know what a nacelle is. (For extra credit, check out some other wind-energy “vocabulary” words at The Energy Bible.)

ATETV Episode 33: New Industries Mean New Opportunities

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

This week, we look at two up-and-coming industries – Wind Energy Technology and Architectural Technology – and take another look at internships and their key role in workforce development.

In our first segment, we talk with Mark Guilloz, operational manager for two wind power plants in Northeast Colorado operated by enXco Service Corporation, who explains that today’s need for skilled wind technicians is phenomenal. “The [wind power] industry is growing so rapidly that the manpower, the knowledge, the expertise that we’re reaching out for is very difficult to find.”

What does it take to make it in the field of Wind Energy? Well, a sense of adventure and a love of heights doesn’t hurt, according to Mark. “As a [Wind Energy] technician, you’re not just going to be in a controlled environment,” he explains. “In many cases…you’re going to kind of be in a pretzel sort of position, maybe upside down or sideways, and you may be sitting out on the ledge of a turbine…over 200 feet in the air with the wind blowing and maybe a little bit of snow.”

Now that’s a career that’s really soaring!

But, if you like to keep your feet planted on the ground, you might be better suited to the field of Architectural Technology, which, as we learn in Segment 2, is also undergoing rapid growth, the result of a current demand for green buildings.

Christina Sullenberger is enrolled in the Architectural Technologies program at Sinclair Community College. As she tells us, “Everything now is becoming green, so I’m continuing my education and furthering my knowledge and going into a field that’s up-and-coming.” With her newfound knowledge in energy analysis and other skills necessary for today’s emphasis on green buildings, Christina hopes that this experience will be a stepping stone on a path to a four-year college degree and a career as a licensed architect helping to ensure that both new and existing homes become more energy efficient.

Finally, in Segment 3, we learn how community college internships are preparing today’s students for the workforce of tomorrow. “Our primary mission is workforce development,” explains Robert Grove of Wake Technical Community College. “So we work very closely with industry representatives, and advisory committees [to develop curriculum].” But also key are the internships and co-op work experiences that enable Wake Forest students to get OJT – on-the-job training.

“To get out there and to get your hands in and work with people that are actually doing what you’re being trained to do is invaluable,” adds Robert. “You can’t replace that kind of experience. It’s fundamentally key to being successful.”

ATETV Episode 27: The Numbers Add Up

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

This week we begin by exploring Lasers and Photonics Technologies and Wind Energy technology, and end by focusing on the ways that community colleges are providing students with the core math skills they’ll need to succeed in both of these fields –as well as every other area of technology.

In our first segment, we meet Central Carolina Community College student Todd Devine, who is enrolled in the college’s Laser and Photonics Engineering program. “I have always liked lasers, and ever since I was little I was tinkering with things, and it’s just grown from there.” This lifelong interest is now evolving into a promising career path, with laser technology being used in fields as diverse as surgical procedures and music and video technology.

“Every day there is a new application coming out for lasers, so it’s creating a lot of jobs,” notes Central Carolina’s Gary Beasley. “And guess what? There are not enough technicians to support those applications in the medical field or in telecommunications.” But Central Carolina’s program aims to change that, and Todd Devine is proof positive.

“When I graduate, I think I am going to look toward the medical fields that are dealing with lasers, and help mankind in some way,” says Todd. “I want to do something useful for the world.”

Similarly, as we see in our second segment, the students in the Wind Energy program at Wyoming’s Laramie County Community College are also looking at their technology curriculum as important not just for their careers, but also for our environment and our society.

“When my students come to class, people aren’t sleeping,” says Laramie’s Michael Schmidt. “They are very focused on what they are learning. These people are excited.”

The Wind Energy program is designed to prepare technicians to go into the wind industry to repair utility skill wind turbines, large commercial machines with complex control systems that allow them to produce energy efficiently and to maximize capability. The highly skilled students who emerge from the program are versed in all aspects of wind energy technology, from introduction to wind power, to electricity, hydraulics, and all of the basic core skills needed to excel in the field.

And essential to students’ success is a firm foundation in mathematics. “Math and science are very critical,” adds Michael Schmidt. “Mathematics, specifically, apply to the technical part of the program. Our technicians have to have an understanding of how power is produced. They have to have an understanding of power quality because this power is ultimately delivered to a utility, ends up on a grid and is then delivered to the consumer.”

Which brings us to our third segment, which shows us why community colleges are great places for students to get up to speed in algebra, calculus and other core math skills.

“All technology goes back to math,” notes Scott Edwards of Juniper Networks. “The more you know about math, the better you understand it, and the more clear will be the complex topics that you are going to learn in the future.”

And community college programs provide the support and guidance to enable students to tackle the challenges of higher level mathematics. As Laser and Photonics student Todd Devine tells prospective students, “If you are struggling with math in high school right now, [you should know] that if you just study hard and work through it, it will all pay off.”

Adds Andrew Maynard of the Springfield Technical Community College faculty, “The nice thing about community colleges is that if you are not up to speed in math — whether because you’ve been out of school for awhile or because you had trouble with math in high school — we offer remedial classes to help bring you up to the college level, so you don’t fail.”

And, as this week’s episode shows, success in math translates to success in any technology career.

ATETV Episode 6: Three More Success Stories

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

ATETV Episode 6 went live yesterday with three more ATE success stories from across the country.

Our first segment, on preparing students for careers in renewable energy, couldn’t be more timely, what with President Obama’s speech on the topic at MIT this past Friday.  As we did in our story about process technology last week, we focus on a single mom who is enrolled in an ATE program — in this case, studying wind energy technology — to make a better life for her and her family.

For our second segment, we get a bit of a history lesson. Benjamin Franklin, who got his start as a printer’s apprentice, believed that apprentices made good citizens. We pay a visit to his namesake school in his hometown of Boston, which is bringing his philosophy into the 21st century through its wide variety of ATE programs.

Finally, we take a look at rapid prototype modeling, the wave of the future in design and manufacturing. Rapid prototyping allows students to “print” 3D copies of their designs; in some applications, they can even use it to produce final products. It sounds like something out of science fiction, but it’s not, and it’s being taught in ATE programs right now.