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Advanced Wind Technician Program opens new career opportunities for rural student

FOX OKC | Feb. 13, 2020
Author: Destiny Washington

Students that attend Advanced Wind Technician Certification Program can work at wind turbines anywhere in the world. (Courtesy: Demery Pennington)

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KOKH) — Oklahoma has vast energy resources, and opportunities are growing to support the clean power industry.

High Plains Technology Center (HPTC) started its wind tech program 12 years ago, with an eye toward training workers for all of Oklahoma’s energy careers.

“A lot has changed since then,” says Taylor Burnett, Asst. Superintendent of the school. “The program started out small, but wind is booming now.”

Burnett says the Advanced Wind Technician Certification Program at High Plains typically enrolls between 12-14 students in a course, with two 20-week courses occurring each year.

The program is creating a robust talent pool that attracts multi-national corporations to Oklahoma for development. Because of this, the wind industry is already the number one taxpayer in 12 counties and 48 school districts, and that number is growing.

Bryant Shepherd, an 18-year-old student from Woodward heard about the program at a high school career fair. 

“The job stability of wind is what drew me to the program at High Plains. I can’t count on oil and gas to put food on the table consistently, so I decided to become a wind tech,” Shepherd said. “I hope to eventually work my way up to becoming a Site Lead.” said Shepherd.

Bonnie Holloway is a 24-year-old student who decided to follow in her dad’s footsteps. 

“My dad has been a wind tech for 15 years. We’re from New Mexico, but my parents moved to Oklahoma for his work, and I decided to follow them. I was working in healthcare before and sitting behind a desk all day is not for me,” Holloway said. “The numbers also make a lot of sense.” said Holloway.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind technicians are rated among the fastest growing jobs in America, and they’re being equipped and trained right here in our state.

Read more here.

Southern Power energizes Ouachita Mountains wind farm in southeastern Oklahoma

The Oklahoman | Feb. 12, 2020
Author: Jack Money

Southern Energy’s Wildhorse Mountain Wind Facility, a 100-megawatt project, became operational this week. [PROVIDED BY SOUTHERN POWER]

Wind energy has made its way deep into the heart of Oklahoma’s Little Dixie.

On Tuesday, Southern Power announced that its 100-megawatt Wildhorse Mountain Wind Facility in the Ouachita Mountains in Pushmataha County is operational.

It is the only operating project generating power using wind to be located so far south and east in the state, at least for now — something industry advocates attribute to technological upgrades involving blades and turbines that have made it possible to generate a usable stream of energy at increasingly low wind speeds.

These days, a steady breeze of 3 to 4 miles per hour suffices, opening up southeastern Oklahoma to wind development opportunities that previously weren’t feasible, said Mark Yates, vice president and Oklahoma director of the Advanced Power Alliance.

“Fifteen years ago, you would not have been able to develop a project of this type in southeast Oklahoma,” he said.

The other reason projects are beginning to move into that part of Oklahoma is to escape from congestion-related issues involving the grid covering northern and western parts of the state as additional wind, solar and storage technology projects continue to be designed and built.

Yates said there is about a 2-gigawatt queue of pending wind energy projects across the state, plus another 6 gigawatts of pending solar projects that are in some stage of development.

“Clearly, we have no expectation that everything in the queue will get built,” Yates said, “but we have a lot still to come.”

As for the Wildhorse Mountain project, Southern Power officials said it is selling associated renewable energy credits and the electricity the plant produces for the next 20 years to the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp.

Wildhorse Mountain consists of 29 pole-mounted wind turbines manufactured by Vestas, which Southern Power hired to maintain.

Southern Power acquired the facility in May 2018 from Renewable Energy Systems, the developer that built the project and created 250 jobs at peak construction.

Southern Power officials stated Tuesday the project fits Southern Power’s strategy to acquire and develop projects covered by long-term contracts with counterparties that have strong credit support.

With the addition of Wildhorse Mountain, officials stated Southern Power’s wind portfolio now consists of more than 2 gigawatts, making up nearly half of its 4.5 gigawatts of renewable assets that include more than 40 solar and wind facilities that are operating or under construction.

“Wildhorse Mountain Wind Facility is our fourth wind project in the state of Oklahoma, and we are pleased to see this project achieve commercial operation,” stated Mark Lantrip, Southern Power’s CEO.

“This additional facility showcases our commitment to the development of wind energy and is an excellent addition to our growing renewable fleet.”

Read more here.