WITCC looks to expand wind program - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

WITCC looks to expand wind program

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- New jobs are blowing into Iowa, thanks to the wind energy industry.

The Iowa Wind Energy Association says 80 companies related to the industry are now set up in the state, and thanks to a healthy supply of wind, those companies are looking at a lot of growth potential. So are educators.

Western Iowa Tech Community College's wind energy technician program has only been around for a year, but already, it's looking to expand.

Right now, about 25 students are enrolled in the program but continued wind energy growth in northwest Iowa has WIT looking towards the future.

That's why the college has partnered with the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation, to bring the program to Cherokee

The program's currently based in Sioux City, but officials say Cherokee is closer to most of the activity in Iowa's wind industry.

Western Iowa Tech president Dr. Robert Dunker says it's a move that will benefit both the college, and Cherokee community.

"They would own a wind turbine and they would use that for economic development. We would use that wind turbine to support our students and our wind technician programs," said Dunker.

Right now, Cherokee Economic Development's looking at wind maps, and possible sites for a full-sized, 1.4 megawatt turbine.

With an energy transmission line possibly coming through Iowa, Cherokee leaders say now is the time to prepare for further growth in wind energy.

"There's a number of benefits that we look at, we analyze and say 'This is a good thing for our community,'" said Cherokee Area Economic Development Corp. executive director Mark Buschkamp.

Western Iowa Tech would need to build a new facility, and possibly figure out housing in Cherokee for students in the program.

A lot of the project depends on the USDA. Cherokee Economic Development has requested a feasibility study from that agency. If the study comes back positive, they hope the USDA could help out with grants.

If all goes according to plan, Buschkamp hopes to have everything up and running by late 2012.

In Estherville, Iowa Lakes Community College has been offering a wind energy and turbine technology program since fall of 2004.

It started out with just 15 students, but has grown to more than 150 today, with seven instructors. The building housing the program has even been added on to twice.

Outside of the classroom, students get real-life training with a 1.65 megawatt turbine near its Estherville campus.

Online Reporter: Zach Tecklenburg

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