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Next generation of wind energy introduced

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By Audrey Esther, News9.com INsite Team

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Wind energy was discussed at a recent energy summit and it's a current hot topic at some local college campuses. The next generation of wind energy experts will soon be trained in the metro.

The fact that energy leaders like oilman T. Boone Pickens are supporting wind energy shows just how important wind energy is becoming. It's a rapidly growing industry that now needs a qualified workforce.

The wind energy industry is sweeping across the country as fast as an Oklahoma wind gust.

What isn't growing as fast, however, is a qualified wind energy workforce and wind turbine technicians who maintain mammoth turbine towers.

Educators at Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma City Community College hope to solve this workforce dilemma.

"The demand is really pulling us along so we're acting really fast on this," Dr. Jerry Nielsen with the OSU-OKC Wind Turbine Technology Program said.

Next spring OSU-OKC hopes to fill classrooms with students who are eager to learn more about wind turbine technology and on their way toward earning a two-year associate degree.

"We're pushing the career emphasis because this is something that can last," Nielsen said.

Oklahoma City Community College is also giving wind energy a boost. OCCC will launch it's already fully enrolled wind turbine technician program this fall.

"We're all just sitting in the holding pattern waiting for that schedule to come down as soon as it's finalized we're going to hit the switch and be ready to roll," John Claybon, OCCC Corporate Learning Consultant, said.

OG&E is ready for qualified energy technicians now. OG&E has plans to quadruple its energy output.

"It's important that we have an opportunity to train these professionals and keep them here in the state and doing some very interesting and fascinating work on new technology and in an industry that is just now beginning to catch hold in our state," OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said.

Job growth in the wind energy industry means the growth in other industries as well.

"Welders, engineers, electricians, general contractors, construction and the industry as a whole is going to bring a lot to the Oklahoma economy," Claybon said.

The starting salary for a wind turbine technician with just a few years of experience is about $40,000.

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