Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology announced Tuesday that it has received a $2 million federal grant to implement its wind turbine program and develop wind energy programs at other campuses around the state.
“We’ve been researching wind energy technology and industrial technology for more than a year now,” said Joe Schaffer, interim dean of MSU-Great Falls. “We’ve also been kicking around the idea of a regional program.”
Though MSU-Great Falls was awarded the $1.97 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, they will share it with MSU-Northern in Havre, MSU-Billings College of Technology and Montana Tech in Butte.
Wind turbines will be erected at each of the campuses and curriculum will be developed for a wind energy technical program at each campus. The three-year grant will allow campuses to develop programs and collectively share resources. MSU-Great Falls applied for the grant.
“I’m still surprised it was funded,” Schaffer said. “But I believe it was funded because of the collaborative partnerships.”
MSU-Great Falls is in the process of building its own 120-foot wind turbine and has received approval from the Great Falls planning board and the Montana Board of Regents. A feasibility study conducted by Western Community Energy out of Bozeman indicated it will cost approximately $200,000 to build a turbine on the campus.
Schaffer said the 50-kilowatt turbine will power the college’s industrial trades building.
Several other partners in the project include the Wind Application Center at MSU-Bozeman; wind industry representatives; the state’s Workforce Investment Board; workforce centers in Great Falls, Havre, Shelby and Cut Bank; the Montana Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee; Great Falls Public Schools; the Energy Systems Technology and Training Center; Centralia College in Washington; Opportunity Link and Rural Dynamics Inc.
The “Wind Montana” project will develop a one-year certificate program in general industrial trade to include general electrical and mechanical job skills. Those who choose could then continue on in a more specific wind technician program that would award an associate of applied science degree.
This was the only project in Montana to be funded under the grant program.