Daily Iowan: UI Adds Wind Energy Certificate

Sunday, March 3, 2013

By Rebecca Morin
Daily Iowan
 

With one of the nation’s highest wind-energy capacity, Iowa is continuing to increase its involvement with sustainable energy production — this time at the higher-education level.

The University of Iowa’s College of Engineering announced last week that a wind-energy certificate has been created. Iowa’s strong attention in wind energy sparked the interest from UI engineering-school researchers.

“Iowa has a very strong interest in wind energy,” said Pablo Carrica, associate professor of engineering and a faculty research engineer.

Carrica said 20 percent of power in Iowa is generated by wind energy.

The job market for wind farms and wind-turbine companies continues to grow, experts said.

“There are over 3,500 job openings in this area and not enough people to support them,” said David Bennett, the instructor of Energy Production & Distribution Technologies at Kirkwood Community College.

The wind-energy certificate is geared toward engineering students who want to learn the principles behind wind-energy technology, and the engineering school is trying to help its students better prepare themselves for these jobs by offering interdisciplinary courses.

“Companies are looking for employees who have a higher level of education on wind energy,” Carrica said.

Wind Turbine Aerodynamics from mechanical engineering and Spatial Analyses of Wind Energy from the Geography Department are new courses offered this spring for the certificate. Also, an additional course titled Information Systems for Resource Management was developed and will be offered in fall 2013, Carrica said.

“Existing courses are being used in various departments as well,” said Marian Muste, a research engineer. “It blends specialty areas like geography with computer science.”

These courses  not only provide the students with different interdisciplinary courses but also offer hands on experience.

“The course has a project students have to do with the information system at the Wind Power Lab,” Muste said. “Wind Power Lab is a platform where students can develop various projects.”

The UI is not the only higher-education institution to offer a program of this nature; Iowa State University also has a program specialized in wind energy.

Iowa State offers a wind-energy minor and has a Wind Energy Science, Engineering, and Policy program for graduate students, said Katherine Rice, director of corporate relations at Iowa State.

Those who work directly with wind farms support the UI’s new certificate offering, and they encourage students to take on an education in wind energy.

“I am happy the university has embraced the need for a wind-energy program,” said Bennett, who has ties to the wind farm at Kirkwood. “The people need to understand the truth about the benefits and the effectiveness of wind energy.”