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A teaching tool

MinnWest-Canby receives a wind turbine blade from local energy company that will be put to good use

December 4, 2010
By Phillip Bock

CANBY - Students in the wind energy technology program at the Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Canby will have the opportunity for more hands-on training as the result of a wind tower blade donated to the campus.

The blade, from a Zond 750 wind turbine, was donated by AES Alternative Energy out of Lake Benton. Crews delivered the 76 foot, 8,000 pound blade to the campus in early November.

Wind energy instructor Laceson Town said he hopes to use the blade as a training tool for his classes on airfoils, blades, and rotors. During the classes, students will learn abut the overall component makeup of the blade, study blade twists and learn about aerodynamics.

Article Photos

Photo by Phillip Bock
Above: Wind Energy Instructor Laceson Town shows off “Big Blue,” an internal gear box taken from a wind tower.

"There are practical things we will be looking at," Town said. "We'll use it for demonstrations and look at the repair."

The blade is one of three that was damaged on a turbine in southwest Minnesota. The other two blades of the turbine were irreparably damaged, but the third, that was donated to Minnesota West, had repairs attempted on it. Town said he will use the patch to teach students different techniques in repairing blades.

As a former aircraft mechanic, Town is no stranger to repairing aerodynamic components. His colleagues from Northwest Airlines donated several aircraft wing parts to the program that Town will use to teach fiberglass repair.

"Some of my friends from Northwest donated parts so we can get started doing small fiberglass repairs," Town said. "Wind turbine blades are extremely heavy and are made of thick fiberglass."

The donated blade accompanies a wind tower base that the college acquired earlier this summer. Professors in the wind energy program use the 85 foot tower to train students on climbing and rescue techniques.

"They're out here all the time," Town said of the tower. "They love coming out here to climb."

Earlier this year the automotive program at the Minnesota West Canby Campus was shut down and the wind technology program expanded into the former space. Town said they will use the garage to train students on how to assemble and disassemble gear boxes and generators housed in wind towers.

"They'll take off all the cover plates and disassemble as much as they can," Town said. "They have to sketch it out first so they know how to put it back together."

The next big step for the program is becoming a recognized wind energy program by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Instructors at the college are compiling information from their program to submit to AWEA in order to receive the approval from the organization.

"Nobody has had any guidelines up until now," Town said. "They want us to submit a portfolio of our program for their seal of approval."

If accepted, Minnesota West Community and Technical College will become one of the first colleges nationally recognized by AWEA.

Wind technology is still relatively new, Town said, and construction of wind towers is only expected to grow in the coming years. The goal of the program, he said, is to provide students the necessary skills to work in the growing industry.

"I tell new students that construction will be going on for the next two years," Town said. "When the construction is done and up and running it is the perfect time for them to walk out the door and get hired on."



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