Posts Tagged ‘wind technology’

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.”

Q&A with Stanley Kowalski III of FloDesign, Inc.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

SK_headshotThe FloDesign, Inc. was recently awarded $3 million in grants from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to expand its operations, including the creation of a product development center and the continued operations of its aerodynamic research center. We talked with FloDesign founder Stanley Kowalski III, about the company’s wind turbine technology, clean energy and the types of jobs that this new industry will create.
 
Why do you think the wind turbine industry is a good field for technical students to consider as they’re looking toward their careers?

Right now, wind is the lowest cost renewable resource. There’s nothing more rewarding than going into a job that will have a social impact, a job in which you’re actually going to be “doing good.” And green tech has that right now. If we can wean ourselves away from fossil fuels, we really can save the planet. And all of these things make you feel better and give you more purpose.
 
The FloDesign wind turbines are based on jet engine technology. Can you explain how this is distinct from other wind turbine technology?

Our technology is called a “shrouded turbine” and it’s totally different from [existing wind turbines]. Most wind turbines you see today have three blades and look like a propeller on an airplane. Our turbine, on the other hand, looks just like a jet engine. That’s because our engineers and scientists come from aerospace backgrounds and we’re applying aerospace and propulsion principles to wind power. [Shrouded turbines are built around a fan surrounded by a "shroud." As a result, wind flows through the fan and around the outside of the shroud creating an air mixture at the back of the turbine that pulls air through more quickly.]

But, what’s noticably different about our technology is that these turbines are about half the size of other wind turbines — but produce the same amount of power. And because the rotors are half the size of traditional turbines — and the towers are half as tall — these turbines can be used in a variety of different environments and places where the much larger turbines wouldn’t fit, for example, in cities and at airports.
 
You’ve referred to this as “disruptive technology.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

It refers to using an old idea in a new way. If you look back through time, there has always been a place for disruptive technology. For example, think about ice. There was a time when ice was produced by carving up lakes and transporting ice blocks by horse and buggy. Then refrigeration came along and the whole ice industry changed drastically. A more recent example would be the [photo] film industry. Remember when digital cameras first came to market, how rapidly the film industry declined? These are both examples of disruptive technologies. In the case of FloDesign, we took a mature technology used in propulsion systems, called the mix rejecter, a means of pumping air on the back of a jet engine, and placed it on a new object — the wind turbine. The result was better performance and potentially lower cost
 
FloDesign’s new research and development operation is expected to create 150 new jobs. Can you tell us more about the types of jobs that will be created?

Like the automotive industry, there will be many different facets of the operation that have to come together in order for this project to fully come to fruition. For example, there’s the manufacturing itself — how will we actually build these? Then we will be developing ancillary products like a shipping container. So everything from the design down to the actual installation of the device, will create job opportunities. So, when I talk about design, that will involve scientists and engineers. When we talk about the execution of that design, we will need people with CAD [computer assisted design] skills.

Can you talk more about these skills?

When we talk about CAD, we’re talking about computer-aided tools that can be used either for drafting or for design.

For us, we’re building small prototypes of our actual wind turbine. And we’re using a science known as similitude, which means we can test it in small scale. Imagine if you had to build the whole thing before you could see how it worked — you can’t do that. You have to test on a small scale before you can go to large scale. And that’s what rapid prototyping does — it gives you rapid, quick tests. I can test 37 iterations of my wind turbine, at a cost of maybe $5,000 and know what the performance would be for that first turbine that will cost $2 million [to actually produce.] I think CAD is one of the most powerful tools you can have [as a technician.]

What other advice would you give today’s students?

Well, I would say that internships can be valuable. Our company currently has five or six employees [who started as interns] and it was a great process — the students got a taste of the real world, and we got to know them [and their abilities.] It was sort of a dating period.

I would also say that I think for students who are just graduating and considering their employment options, entry level positions at small companies provide you with the opportunity to be part of something that could be enormous. Of course, I’m biased, but I think that many of today’s opportunities in America really lie in small companies and start-ups.

Growing Green Jobs

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Last week’s State of the Union address was all about jobs, and one promising avenue for job growth the President highlighted is the new green economy.

In his speech, Obama framed the need to invest in those types of jobs in terms of keeping pace with international competitors like China, Germany and India. “These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.”

Indeed, according to a New York Times report, China is now the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and is making gains in other green fields as well.

If America wants to keep up, ATE programs at community colleges will be vital to training new green workers and retraining older workers for new green jobs. Perhaps that’s why President Obama repeated his call for more funding for community colleges in his speech last week, calling them “a career pathway for the children of many working families.”

There are two sides to greening the economy: investing in new renewable energy projects or cleaner transportation infrastructure like high-speed rail; and improving energy efficiency in order to better conserve heat and electricity. We saw an example of each of these types of green jobs in this week’s episode. At Laramie County Community College in Wyoming, students are learning how to operate and maintain the wind turbines that are popping up across the West.

Meanwhile, at Sinclair Community College, students are working with local affordable housing groups to conduct green energy audits and weatherize homes. And both of these types of jobs need to be done here, in America; they can’t be sent overseas.

The hope is that last year’s unprecedented federal investment in basic scientific research will seed a new green manufacturing sector, building advanced batteries and solar cells. That will mean new green jobs for laid-off manufacturing workers, but first they’ll be need to be retrained. And ATE programs at community colleges across the country will be on the front lines of that training.

Click here to read about some of the green job titles expected to see the biggest growth in the coming years.

ATETV Episode 20: It’s All about Jobs

Monday, February 1st, 2010

ATETV hits a milestone with its 20th episode this week, and we’re marking the occasion by focusing on the issue of jobs and the needs of our workforce. In particular, this week we look at how ATE programs are training students for work in the new green economy, and to meet the high demand for technicians in many fields.

First, we head out to Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where Jonathan Terry is studying to be a wind turbine technician. Jonathan actually has a bachelor’s degree in international business, but he went back to school because he saw that wind energy is a growing industry.

Jonathan’s story illustrates a larger issue we cover in our second segment this week: the need for skilled technicians in many industries, from green tech to lab work. “The ability for the two-year community colleges to deliver these workers as quickly as they can, this is an area that has become critical to the United States economic position in the world,” says Ellen Bemben of the Regional Technology Corporation.

Finally, we take a look at one specific type of green job that’s in high demand. Sinclair Community College is partnering with affordable housing groups to conduct energy audits and weatherize homes. “It creates an awareness about what can be gained from energy efficiency,” says Sinclair’s Bob Gilbert. “And the possibilities for our students in the job market just keeps increasing and increasing.”

As the country continues to focus on creating more opportunities for the future, students should look into community colleges as a fast, cost-effective way to prepare for secure, in-demand careers.