By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS staff
A new program is blowing in the wind for Mesalands Community College and it has already gathered support throughout the state.
The North American Wind Research and Training Center (NAWRTC) initiative would gear the next generation toward efficient energy production by making electricity through wind power, said Mesalands President Phillip Barry, adding the time is right for New Mexico to act.
“Timing is so critical that we move forward as a state as everyone is getting on the same bandwagon,” Barry said, adding New Mexico would be the fourth state to harbor such an initiative, as wind energy research and programs already are under way in Montana, North Dakota and Iowa.
Cost for the wind center, which Barry said would measure approximately 70,000 square feet, would be about $9.5 million, he said.
This includes the $1.4 million needed to build a massive wind turbine near campus, Barry said, and the cost of college faculty to train students.
The college would offer two programs for windsmiths, Barry said. The first would be an eight-to-13 week program to train candidates to operate and maintain the increasingly popular wind towers. The second would be a more comprehensive two-year program for an associate’s degree to gear students for a career in the wind industry.
With the business proposal and grants of $200,000 already under Mesalands’ belt, Barry said, another $500,000 is in the works.
A $25,000 feasibility study and a business plan are also in progress, Barry said, with a completion date of Sept. 15.
Although the study and plan are not yet complete, it has not stopped universities, organizations and top officials from endorsing the program.
“We have not met anyone who has not been supportive of this,” Barry said.
Letters of support have come in from New Mexico State University, which expressed interest in contributing to the research aspect of the program; Clipper Wind Power Development Company, a California company that said there was certainly a need for more trained wind technicians and Sandia National Laboratories.
More letters were received from U.S. Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman; U.S. Rep. Tom Udall; State Rep. Brian Moore; the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Dept.; the New Mexico Economic Development Dept. and Gov. Bill Richardson.
Richardson wrote in his letter of support: “The North American Wind Research and Training center is an idea whose time has come, and I will do all I can to help you move this forward.”
Barry said he is awaiting a call back for an appointment with Richardson regarding what Barry called a far-reaching initiative for technology and economic development.
“This (NAWRTC) really isn’t only for Mesalands … it isn’t even for Quay County … but the state of New Mexico,” Barry said.