“Students are already interested in the environment and how to help what they perceive as the problems they’ll face when they join the workforce,” said Robb Larson of Montana State University. “So the goal is to get them thinking about wind and alternative energy as a career path.” And to help the students Montana State, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has named Montana State the home for a new Wind Applications Center.
“We’re a land grant institution dedicated to outreach and engineering,” said Larson, who is a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. “It makes sense to support this industry that will eventually help students find jobs in their own state and support this clean, renewable energy industry.”
The assignation of the applications center to Montana State brings with it $40,000 every year for three years, which will go towards incorporating wind-specific topics in to currently running engineering courses. On top of that though, the university will also start educating the public about wind energy, as well as supporting the growth of the wind industry in Montana.
Larson is hoping too, that on top of the government’s grant, supplemental grants will be provided, along with other funding and industry partnerships, to boost Montana State’s impact. “It seemed like the time was right for MSU, engineering and my department to step up and make a difference in alternative energy, for environmental reasons and energy independence reasons,” Larson said. “That’s where students want to go, and it’s the right place to go.”
In the United States alone, wind energy is expected to provide 20% of the country’s total electrical generation by 2030. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Montana’s ranking of 5th in the potential wind generation capacity category will see them top out at 116,000 MW. With that expectation riding on their shoulders, the current and soon-to-be students are going to be the engineers of the future wind industry.
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