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Information Updated August 2019
Steve Hrkach (her’kosh) is the lead faculty for the Wind Energy Technology Program at Laramie Community College
Students come from all parts of the U.S. Most are from Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado. Currently, there is one student who is from Syria.
Currently there are 18 students enrolled into the program. Over the past three years, we have averaged 26 students. There are two cohorts at any one time. We start a new cohort every fall semester and graduate a cohort every spring.
2 Full-Time Faculty
Gender: Male 91%, Female 9%
Ethnicity: Caucasian 88%, African American 6%, Hispanic 6%
Face-to-face and hybrid classes. Most classes involve hands-on labs.
There’s a combination of full and half-semester classes. Most are full 16-week courses.
AAS: Associate of Applied Science
WTT1000 Introduction to Wind Energy
There are four unique lab spaces in the program. The first is the Integrated Systems Technology lab. This lab is utilized by Wind, HVAC, Electrical and Industrial Technology students. It is divided into 4 segments. The first segment has 10 electrical stations that students in basic electrical training use to build and test circuits. It includes: electrical cabinet with test points and power supplies; computer station with circuit design software; tools, wire and electrical test equipment. The next segment has 5 Amatrol Motor Control System trainers. These modular trainers allow students to learn about components used in motor control systems. The third segment contains 7 Amatrol Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) trainers. Computer stations located at each trainer are used by students to develop, upload and run PLC programs. These trainers are modular and can be used for wide-ranging, automated tasks. The fourth segment contains 6 Amatrol Mechanical Drives trainers. These trainers are used to teach students the basics of leveling, coupling and aligning motors and shafts, meshing gears and pulleys and building a combination of drive systems.
The second unique lab is the Wind Technology Lab. The indoor lab houses an operational rotor from a Suzlon S88 wind turbine and an operational Mitsubishi 1 megawatt nacelle. There are various other trainers that include Yaw gear drives, a gearbox from a 600kW turbine, a hydraulic hub simulator, a Brembo brake trainer, and a slip ring trainer. The lab also contains a climb safety trainer. The trainer includes two 20’ ladders with cable systems and a nacelle simulator. This lab is used to train and certify students to be Competent Persons in accordance with OSHA regulations and ANSI 359Z standards.
The third unique lab is in a classroom. It contains a Lab Volt trainer that is used to teach motor and generator theory. The trainer is modular and students configure and wire it to prove the theories learned in the classroom. The other half of the lab contains 6 full size 3 phase, 120/208 volt motor control trainers. These trainers are used by 4th semester students to complete capstone projects. Students are provided with a bill of materials and instructions to design and build complex motor control systems. After completing each project, the instructor inserts faults into their cabinets and students are then required to troubleshoot and repair the system.
The fourth is the Fluid Power Lab located in the Flex Tech building. This lab utilizes specialized hydraulic trainers that students use to construct and operate fluid power systems. They gain an understanding of the relationship between flow and pressure along with the many different components used in hydraulic systems.
I have not conducted a job market analysis. However, we do use statistics from the Department of Labor to track employment rates and salaries. We also work with industry in the local area (WY and surrounding states) to determine current and future labor pool needs.
We have a world-class facility, dedicated staff and industry focused curriculum. However, what really helps to make the Wind Energy Program at LCCC successful is the students return on investment (ROI). As a community college, students aren’t burdened with the high cost of tuition and fees associated with universities and private institutions. Graduate’s starting annual salaries range from $40k – $50k + with full a full package of benefits. The ROI
for this two year program is excellent.
The program is unique in how it interacts with industry. Wyoming is developing its wind energy at a much faster pace than in years past. There’s quite a few re-power and new wind projects being developed in the state. However, Wyoming is a large and relatively unpopulated state with most sites located two or more hours away from the college. Industry advisory boards are typically held on campus or downtown with local industry. The LCCC Wind Industry Advisory Board is a mobile operation. It’s easier for me to schedule and travel to a site then it is for site and regional managers to travel here on a specific day. Each semester I drive to a particular site and spend a few hours talking with field techs and managers. I get to observe the day-to-day operations in person and develop a relationship with professionals in the industry. Managers and technicians have the opportunity to tell me what they want and need in an entry level technician. I use this information to make updates and changes to the program. Currently, the industry board consists of personnel from Duke Energy, NextEra, UpWind, PacifiCorp and Power Company of Wyoming.
Internships are highly encouraged, but not required to complete the program. There are three to four companies that actively reach out to the college every spring for summer interns. Most internships are competitive and students must apply for them on their own.
Every student graduating from the program last May who applied for a wind tech position was hired. Half had secured jobs prior to commencement. The average starting salary was $23.60 an hour. Two students were hired outside of the wind industry. One was hired as an Instrument and Equipment (I&E) Technician in the oil and gas industry and the other became a mechanic at a manufacturing plant. The bottom line is there are more jobs in wind right now than there are qualified technicians. I am in weekly contact with staffing agencies trying to hire technicians. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough students to fill them. With the current pace of wind energy development in the U.S., I expect this trend to continue for at least the next five years.
Rocky Mountain Power has committed to donating a GE 1.5 ESS nacelle and rotor to the Wind Energy Technology program. The equipment is part of a large repower project under the $3.4B Energy Vision 2020 program. Expected delivery is summer of 2020. The nacelle and rotor will provide a boost to the program’s training capabilities.
View the syllabus for Laramie Community College's Introduction to Wind Energy course, or visit Laramie directly for more information on their Applied Associate Degree program.View Syllabus 🔒Visit Laramie