PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The mounting interest in wind power has led to an influx of interest from those who want to learn how to maintain and fix windmills, which has had a direct impact on the future of Northern Maine Community College.
Last September, NMCC launched a first-of-its-kind program in New England geared toward training wind power technicians.
At that time, the Maine Community College System board of trustees formally approved a proposal brought forward by NMCC to introduce a wind power technology program on campus. The program will train wind power technicians to operate, maintain and repair wind turbine generators.
Officials from NMCC said they were 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 just 14 miles from the campus in Mars Hill.
NMCC President Tim Crowley said on Wednesday the college is instructing approximately 42 students who are taking the initial courses that are part of the wind power technology program.
Right now, students in the program are taking just initial courses. College officials intend to bring the full program on line this fall.
“The program is a hit in terms of interest,” Crowley said on Wednesday. “I think we will see the greater evolution of the program once we start the associate degree program in the fall.”
There already is a faculty member on board to teach introduction to wind power, and Crowley said that the college intends to hire additional instructors to help teach the rest of the courses in the program.
College officials have noted 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, Franklin County in western Maine and in Canada’s Atlantic provinces. A two-year technical degree is the desired credential for entry into these positions.
Current entry-level wages for a wind power technician are $18 to $22 an hour.