Students at Kirkwood Community College are able to take advantage of many hands-on learning opportunities, from culinary arts to auto repair programs and Kirkwood is one of five colleges in the state to offer Energy Production and Distribution Technologies as a two-year Associates of Applied Science degree.
The program teaches students how to install and maintain wind turbines and solar panels both of which Kirkwood has fully operational, energy producing, full scale models. In the program students are given opportunities to climb over 300 feet in the air to the top of the turbine for real life experience.
“It is exhausting to climb to the top but the view is incredible,” said Ahmed Ahmed, a student who recently went to the top of the turbine for one of his classes.
He added, “It is bigger than you think inside the turbine, up to 10 people can go up at a time.”
According to Iowa Wind Energy Association, by 2020 there should be about 15,000 wind energy related jobs in Iowa. The association also states that Iowa is a leading producer of wind energy in the country.
About 40 percent of Iowa’s power is produced by wind turbines and as the nuclear power plant in Palo is being decommissioned that number could grow.
Wind turbines and photovoltaic cells or solar panels produce green energy, according to the IWEA. Green energy has minimal impact on the planet to use or produce it.
Wind turbines can be seen throughout Iowa in the midst of fields and can have a positive economic impact on a community in the form of rent money given to farmers without the risk of a pipeline for oil.
Wind turbines can be placed in low population density areas like the Dakotas and western Iowa, and even in the ocean, without the risk of major pollution like the gulf oil spill.
Solar panels can be placed anywhere. Kirkwood has solar panels on the roofs of many campus buildings and student apartments. Home and business owners can have panels installed and often receive tax incentives as well as lower energy costs, as stated by the IWEA.