There’s a fresh breeze blowing in Seward, and this time it’s turning the blades on a new wind turbine on the campus of the state’s vocational training school.
Seward based AVTEC – Alaska Institute of Technology’s own wind – turbine was dedicated last week. Fred Esposito, AVTEC director, says the turbine provides hands on training for AVTEC’s industrial electricity and power plant operation students.
“These are being deployed across mainly Western Alaska in rural communities because of the fact that they are robust and fairly low in maintenance and it is my understanding that by the end of this summer there will be 40 of this exact model deployed across Western Alaska in rural Alaska.”
When Seward winds blow at least 20 miles an hour, the wind turbine generates enough energy to run three buildings on the campus where it is located.
The 121 foot tall wind turbine has a 100 kilowatt capacity and is manufactured by Northern Power in Vermont. It is optimized for lower wind conditions and can produce power at speeds as low as 6 miles an hour
“These 100 kw win turbines are considered medium sized wind turbines. They are not the big turbines that are deployed mainly in the lower 48 or in projects like Kodiak and Fire Island. Those are in the 1, 2 and 3 Megawatt status. But these are medium sized turbines, and they are usefull in small communities becasue they can be the right size for those communities. Unalakleet has six of these. “
The value of the turbine comes with it’s value to training workers who in future will be maintaining turbines like it in bush Alaska. AVTEC has trained the state’s power plant operators for a couple of decades. Partners in that effort are the Alaska Energy Authority, the Alaksa Village Electrical Coop, and the Denali Commission. To date, most training has been in diesel generation, but things are changing.
“Renewable energy is being added to these diesel energy systems. In Western Alaska, it’s mainly been wind power that’s been added. So you have these small, isolated electrical systems in these communities with diesel generators and now the integration of a renewable energy source such as wind energy. And so the wind turbine here at AVTEC is connected to our diesel generators, when power plant operators come to AVTEC for training they can be trained on the traditional diesel generators, but also the wind turbine and how it operates and especially how it operates with an integrated source such as a diesel generator.”
Esposito says the turbine has a dual purpose.
He says that AVTEC’s Applied Technology Campus consumes about 90 kilowatts of energy at peak times, so the turbine can handle the load. When the campus is closed, or in evenings, the surplus energy is sent back out into the electrical system.
AVTEC ‘s Applied Technologies campus houses the industrial and mechanical training programs at the school.. including welding, industrial electricity, heavy equipment, diesel technology, pipe welding and now wind turbine plant operator
Esposito says in the past two years, about 79 Alaskans have been trained in some level of wind turbine technology.
He anticipates that the school will be able to train hundreds of Alaskans in various levels of the technology.
Many of them already have jobs, he says, and are seeking additional training.
“It’s keeping the training to date and it’s keeping these operators trained in the current technologies that are being deployed in there communities.”
The wind turbine was paid for with a grant from the Denali Commission. AVTEC also has training programs for oil and gas, transportation, hospitality, healthcare and information technology. Esposito says the wind turbine is a bellweather for AVTEC, in that it represents the schools mission of training Alaskans for high tech jobs, while keeping pace with today’s technology.