A new wind technology laboratory containing a giant General Electric wind turbine was dedicated Tuesday at Hudson Valley Community College’s TEC-SMART classroom and training center.
Before the dedication, more than 100 high school students and regional educators heard a panel discussion about the growing green energy field and job opportunities in it.
The wind technology lab was dedicated to GE, in recognition of its donation of two wind turbines — including the mammoth 1.5-megawatt model — to the college training program.
“Wind power is a domestic source of clean energy,” said HVCC President Andrew Matonak. “We have a lot of wind. There is the potential over the next 20 years for wind to be 25 percent of our electrical generation.”
The wind technology lab is the latest addition at TEC-SMART, which opened in January 2010 at the Saratoga Technology + Energy Park. TEC-SMART stands for Training and Education Center for Semiconductor Manufacturing and Alternative and Renewable Technologies.
TEC-SMART has student training labs for solar power, geothermal energy, alternative vehicle fuels and semiconductor manufacturing, all of which are fields expected to grow.
“These are the jobs of the future. A high school degree won’t cut it anymore,” said Ronald Heacock, president of SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury.
The donations by GE, which also included a 50-kilowatt wind turbine, are estimated to be worth $400,000, officials said.
“Our partnership with the college helps ensure students receive cutting-edge training and have access to high-tech equipment to enable them to apply what they learn in the classroom,” GE Vice President of Renewable Energy Victor Abate said in a statement.
GE Renewable Energy has its headquarters in Schenectady and has been growing rapidly.
GE only entered the renewable energy business with a $200 million acquisition in 2002, and today the business brings in $6 billion annually in revenue, said GE spokeswoman Chris Horne.
Worldwide, she said, there will be $200 billion in renewable energy opportunities over the next three years. There are now 119 countries around the world with renewable energy policies or goals, she said, more than double the number five years ago.
Dan Lance, GE’s manager of wind and solar technician field training, said the number of people GE employs serving wind turbines around the world has grown from 200 five years ago to 1,000 today.
“This is the most excited I’ve ever been about the technology. It’s a really cool field to be in,” he said during the panel discussion, intended to introduce educators and students from around the region to potential future job opportunities.
While GE technicians work all over the world, they are trained in Niskayuna, and the 17,000 GE wind turbines in service are monitored from Schenectady, he noted.
Lance told students renewable energy is a growth field because alternatives are needed to burning fossil fuels and “the world is going to continue to need more power.”
Currently, GE employs 650 people at its renewable energy headquarters, and the new battery plant in Schenectady will eventually employ 400 people. The company also announced last week that while a new solar panel manufacturing plant will be built in Colorado, it will mean 100 more jobs in Schenectady.
But GE isn’t the only firm looking to take advantage of alternative energy innovations.
“The opportunities I believe are boundless for the young men and women in this audience,” said Francis J. Murray, president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Steve Groseclose, manager of risk management and sustainability with GlobalFoundries, told the audience the computer chip maker needs engineers to help it use resources more efficiently. While chip manufacturing requires large volumes of electricity and water, he said, engineers and scientists are always trying to figure out how to make the plant more efficient.
The Ballston Spa school district launched a new program this fall in which high school juniors and seniors can take alternative energy classes at TEC-SMART for college credit, preparing them for the work force sooner.
“This is transformational. This is the kind of thing that has to happen,” said Ballston Spa Schools Superintendent Joseph Dragone.
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said the Capital Region’s evolution into an energy research center is a credit to local leaders. “We are known throughout the country as the leader in alternative and renewable energy, and that doesn’t happen by accident,” he said.