WWCC rushes ahead with wind program

The goal is to open the new facility by the start of the fall quarter on Sept. 24.The goal is to open the new facility by the start of the fall quarter on Sept. 24.

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WALLA WALLA - An expansion of the wind energy program at Walla Walla Community College is under way this summer, with the goal of opening the new space this fall.

A 5,124-square-foot expansion is being built at the site of the college's former health sciences building, which most recently has been housing storage and support service equipment. The WWCC Board of Trustees approved moving forward with the project during its June meeting, awarding the low bid of $1.06 million to G2 Construction of Kennewick.

The expansion will provide a better, more expansive space to carry out training for students seeking to become wind turbine technicians.

"What we have lacked and are accomplishing with this project is lab space for the larger components that are involved in the wind industry," said Jim Peterson, vice president of administrative services.

The space will hold large equipment for students to train and work on, like the generators and gearboxes that sit atop wind turbines in what is called a nacelle. There will also be ladders for students to practice climb-safety training; and an elevated platform for students to practice rappelling from a tower when necessary.

The Wind Energy Technology program at the college was launched in recent years as a response to the growing wind turbine industry in the state.

In a sign of shifting industries, the college shut down its precision machining program and converted the old shop to accommodate the emerging wind program. The converted space offers an office, classroom, small computer lab and room to conduct basic electrical work and training alongside students in the HVAC program.

Peterson said that space and its resources will continue to be utilized by the wind program staff and students. The new expanded space is being built at a site adjacent to the current program space.

Funding for the project is coming from a variety of sources. About $500,000 was set aside in capital funds for a wind program expansion in 2009. Another $200,000 is coming from the college's RMI, or repair/minor improvement capital fund. And $150,000 is being utilized from the IPZ grant (Innovation Partnership Zones) for solar thermal radiant floor heat. The IPZ grant specifies funds be used to support alternative energy training and innovation. About $200,000 will come from the college's operating reserves.

Peterson said the notice to proceed was issued July 12, and the contractor broke ground on the project right away. The goal is to open the new facility by the start of the fall quarter on Sept. 24.

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