Enel Green Power North America’s Thunder Ranch wind farm turbines stand in Garfield, Noble and Kay counties. (File Photo)

To meet the workforce needs of a growing industry in the state, Northern Oklahoma College is establishing a new wind turbine technician program in partnership with Oklahoma’s second-largest wind operator.

Enel Green Power also has established a scholarship to enable students to pursue a wind energy career.

Thirteen students currently are enrolled in an introduction to wind energy course and other process technology courses as part of the program, pending accreditation from Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, and also will each receive a $2,000 scholarship.

Anticipated in 2021, students who complete the curriculum will earn an associate degree in process technology with a wind energy concentration. Graduates will be qualified for work as a wind turbine service technician, by far the fastest-growing occupation in Oklahoma with 64.5% projected growth from 2018-28.

“We are very excited about working with our wind industry partners,” said Frankie Wood-Black, division chair of engineering, physical science and process technology. “This will allow our students to pursue additional process technology options, and continue to improve the critical work skills for those in our area.”

Enel Green Power representatives coordinated with college officials for over two years to re-establish the wind energy program at NOC, assisting in curriculum development, funding a program instructor, connecting students with mentors and facilitating instructional activities such as a virtual wind turbine tour.

“Oklahoma is a key state for Enel Green Power. With dozens of employees, 10 wind farms and more projects on the way, we’re proud to do our part to help ensure Oklahoma has a strong, resilient workforce for the modern energy economy,” said Georgios Papadimitriou, head of Enel Green Power in the U.S. and Canada.

The Timothy Knutson Memorial Scholarship, through the Northern Oklahoma College Foundation, will provide two students in the NOC wind energy program with a $5,000 annual scholarship, which will cover the majority of tuition and fee expenses of one academic year.

Knutson served as senior manager of wind project integration at Enel Green Power North America at the time of his sudden passing on June 11, 2018. He was responsible for overseeing the development, engineering, construction, start-up and commissioning of all new wind projects in the U.S. and Canada. He previously served as a regional operations manager for Enel, supervising a team of operations and maintenance employees for over 3,000 MW of wind assets.

“Tim was dedicated, earned the respect of his peers and had a keen interest in mentoring colleagues who were new to the industry,” Papadimitriou said. “We hope this scholarship will help preserve his memory and instill his spirit of hard work and generosity in future generations of Oklahoma wind workers.”

Through the partnership agreement, Enel also will provide a supplementary stipend for the program’s instructor for the 2020-21 school year.

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Ewald is copy editor and city/education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.

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