PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With instructors and a curriculum in place, Northern Maine Community College is ready to welcome students into New England’s first wind power technology program.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, college officials announced that they would kick off the first class of the new course when classes reconvene Jan. 12.
Last September, NMCC officials announced that they were poised to launch a first-of-its-kind program in New England geared toward training wind power technicians.
The wind power technology program will train wind power technicians to operate, maintain and repair wind turbine generators. The Presque Isle college worked with Maine Public Service Co. to develop the program.
To date, 28 prospective students from across the state have applied for admission to the program.
College officials pointed out that NMCC has seen many applications for the wind technology program from people who recently have been laid off from jobs in Aroostook County mills.
The college was inspired to create the program in light of the growing interest in wind power and NMCC’s proximity to the state’s first commercial wind farm, located in Mars Hill, just 14 miles from the campus.
“We are very excited about this program,” Tim Crowley, the president of NMCC, said Thursday. “It is important for the economic development of the region and it is important because it helps us meet the energy challenges we face locally, nationally, regionally and worldwide.”
Current entry-level wages for a wind power technician are $18 to $22 an hour.
Crowley said the college is ideally suited to provide wind power technology instruction. He said NMCC has existing programs in electrical construction and maintenance, and computer electronics, two fields that serve as foundations for the multidisciplinary wind power industry.
Brent Boyles, president and chief executive officer of Maine Public Service Co., said he also was excited to see the new program launched.
“It is very important to get a skilled and trained work force in Aroostook County to work in this field,” he said.
“Training wind operators and technicians to support renewable energy projects provides an excellent opportunity for students and for the new emerging businesses in our area,” Boyles added.
Crowley said that Maine Public Service Co. had been “instrumental” in helping to build the program, and that NMCC was working hard to spread the word about it.
“We want to be the place to go for this,” said Crowley.
During the press conference, it was announced that Wayne Kilcollins of Presque Isle will serve as the first faculty member to provide instruction to students in the program, Kilcollins comes to NMCC from General Electric Wind Energy, which is the firm that is responsible for the maintenance and engineering of the turbines at the Mars Hill wind farm.
Kilcollins has worked at the Mars Hill site since August 2007.
Allen Punches, the vice president and academic dean at NMCC, said Kilcollins “brings impressive academic credentials” to the job, and also “practical experience doing exactly the work for which we are preparing the graduates of this program.”
Before the press conference ended, Maine Public Service Co. presented NMCC with a $10,000 check to benefit the new program.
College officials have maintained that conservative estimates indicate Aroostook County has the potential to realize 50 to 80 new long-term, highly skilled, high-wage technical positions in operation and maintenance for wind farms between 2009 and 2012. Additional employment opportunities are anticipated in neighboring northern Washington County, in Franklin County in western Maine and in Canada’s Atlantic provinces.