March 20, 2012

SFCC’s wind turbine catches a second wind

By Emily Jarrett, Sedalia Democrat, 20 March 2012

After a few electrical issues, the wind turbine at State Fair Community College is running again.

The turbine is a part of the college’s renewable energy technology program started in August to offer associate of applied science degrees with an emphasis in biomass, solar-electric or wind power generation and maintenance.

SFCC is one of only about 30 schools in the country to offer a degree in renewable energy technology, said David Albers, renewable energy technology program coordinator.

“It’s not a very common degree program, but it really makes sense to seize on the green job sector,” he added. “Community colleges are about training and retraining people to get into the work force quickly, so it made sense for SFCC to take the plunge.”

The program offers students a chance to train for renewable energy-specific jobs. Not only will students learn in a classroom, they will have a chance to learn the ins and outs of renewable energy with hands-on experience.

“Right now we already have a solar panel on the back of the Career and Technology Center we’ll be able to use for training,” said Mark Kelchner, interim dean of technical education. “Also, in our construction lab, there’s a mock building with a roof on it allowing students studying solar panels to be able to do electrical work and wiring.”

A planned project for those interested in the biomass program will be the creation of an alternative energy business incubator at a Sedalia landfill site, Kelchner added.

“Certainly our most visual project for the program was the wind turbine,” he said.

The 90-foot turbine, completed in November, began having technical problems soon after installation.

“We’re not sure why the turbine wasn’t working,” Albers said. “When it was first installed, the turbine would spin for 30 or 60 seconds, then stop. We finally decided it was most likely an electrical error and had to start over with a whole new turbine and pole.”

In addition to being a teaching tool, the turbine is helping SFCC offset some electricity costs.

“When it gets going, the wind turbine provides about five kilowatts of electricity,” Albers said. “By comparison, the average home uses about 1.5 kilowatts per month. It won’t pay for all the electricity used on campus, but it does help lower some costs.”

Albers said the wind turbine isn’t used by students quite yet.

“The program is still very new,” he said. “Right now they’re still in the introductory phases. In the fall semester we’ll start looking at the mechanical components of the turbine and that will be a lot more hands-on. I don’t expect the turbine to break down again, but in the future our students will be able to at least troubleshoot any problems and potentially fix everything on their own.”

With only 32 students in the program this year, Albers said he hopes to continue to get more students interested in renewable energy.

“We’re still just getting started,” he said. “But the great thing about the program is the variety of the students. They range in age from 18 to 50 or so, come from all different backgrounds, but they all believe in the green movement and want to be a part of it.

“Whether it’s about policy or real, on-the-ground solutions, the students are motivated to be a part of the effort.”

For more information about the renewable energy program, go to

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