By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun
A $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) was awarded to the North American Wind Research and Training Center being proposed by Mesalands Community College.
“We’re very excited” about the announcement that was made on Monday, said Phillip Barry, president of MCC.
The grant funds are administered under DOL’s Employment and Training Administration. A majority of the funding will be used to establish training for wind energy technicians.
Another portion of the grant, $750,000 will be used for purchasing the turbine, Barry said.
NAWRTC has also requested $2 million in a capital outlay request from Gov. Bill Richardson for the project.
“The $2 million is critical to the center’s success,” Barry said.
When the project was first conceived it was estimated that a turbine would cost about $2.259 million. However, with the costs of materials and construction rising monthly, the price has increased since then, he said.
“It’s really the foundation of the turbine, because concrete scarcity and supply demand is at work here,” said Jim Morgan, MCC’s director of technology.
The wind turbine, which will be similar in size to those at San Jon and House, will be a 1.25 megawatt, utility grade turbine, Barry said.
It will be installed on the west side of 11th Street, across from MCC’s Building C, Barry said.
The turbine will serve as an energy source, but it is also an essential training tool for students in learning how to operate and repair the wind turbines, said Barry and Morgan.
There are only two other community colleges in the United States, with only one of them with a turbine on site, that offer training for wind energy technicians, Morgan said.
The center’s envisioned as a regional training center for the wind industry employees in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma and as a research center for New Mexico State University and Sandia National Laboratories, according to an abstract of MCC’s grant request to the DOL.
Establishing the research center is dependent on getting the turbine, Morgan said.
Manufacturers have a backlog of orders. However, Morgan said, “We’ve gotten indications from several companies that they might help us with getting a turbine. “
Overall, the center is estimated to cost about $13 million and to come together in phases. The research center is estimated to cost $10.4 million and the remainder is for the turbine.
The wind center’s genesis came in January 2005 when Robert Lumpkin asked the college to consider using wind as a renewable energy source and then the college saw the potential for training and research.
Industry partners expected to be involved in the wind center project are Clipper Windpower Development Co., enXco, Ecel Energy, Public Service Company of New Mexico and Florida Power and Light.
DOL grants are highly competitive with only 72 approved out of 429 original applications this year, according a release announcing the award from U.S. Sen. Pete V. Domenici.
And the grant will be accompanied by an additional $1.22 million in matching funds from state and private institutions.
A grant was also awarded to Clovis Community College for $1.27 million to expand outreach and recruitment in the advanced manufacturing industry, according to the press release. The project will enable the college to train approximately 300 individuals over the next 10 years through outreach efforts and educational enhancement. The grant will also be accompanied by an extra $713,896 in matching funds from area businesses and institutions, the release said.