Cerro Coso Community College: Wind Technology Program

Member Spotlight

Cerro Coso Community College, located in the upper Mojave Desert, is on the cutting edge of developing an Energy Technician program to support the renewable energy industry. In the new industrial technology certificate and degree programs, students will complete an 18-unit core set of courses to provide for a well-rounded skilled technical worker. Courses in computer literacy, technical communication, blue print reading, basic hand tools, applied technical math, oxyacetylene welding, and industrial safety are in the core of the program. Within the degree program are three initial areas of specialization: energy, engineering technology, and electronics. The energy emphasis will include wind and solar technologies and will expand to geothermal, hydro, and other energy alternatives.  

Cerro Coso Community College is uniquely situated for the emerging renewable energy industry and maintains a 6-acre photovoltaic field at the Indian Wells Valley campus in Ridgecrest. From Mojave and Boron's expanding wind and solar energy, Kern River Valley hydro power, Ridgecrest's geothermal plant and solar fields, and the Mammoth Lakes geothermal energy effort, Cerro Coso Community College has responded to meet its community and student population needs. "This cutting-edge renewable technology will put not only the college and our students at the beginnings of innovation in this field, but will serve all of California and the nation. Partnerships to create strong technically prepared students will provide employees for an industry that is expected to have continued sustained growth," stated Mary Retterer, president of Cerro Coso Community College.

Cerro Coso College efforts to develop this program began through partnerships with Sierra Sands Unified School District and the Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake, and the award of a California SB70 Strengthening Career Technical Education Grant. This grant assisted in initiating the Project Lead the Way program at Burroughs High School, which will offer classes for engineers and engineering technicians at the high school level. Additionally, the grant funded the exploration and development of an alternative energy program at the college. Additional partnerships with Kern Wind Energy Association (KWEA), the Advanced Transportation Technologies and Energy Initiative (ATTEI) of Cerritos College, and others have expanded the potential of the college's renewable energy portion.

The wind technician training program is critical to the development of a trained workforce for the wind industry that surrounds the service area of Cerro Coso Community College and the Kern Community College District. As a result of college efforts in the development of the wind curriculum, Cerro Coso was selected to host the Wind Technology training for ATTEI in December 2007, which was attended by community college faculty and administrators from across the state. In addition, Cerro Coso was awarded a $35,000 grant by IEC Corporation to provide additional funding in the development of the wind technician program.

"One of our partners in clean energy training is Cerro Coso College. The college has become the leader in the region for wind generation training. The wind generator on long-term loan from Cerritos College is an affirmation of our partnership as both colleges move ahead in spreading awareness about clean renewable energies," stated Eli Jaramillo, Director, Advanced Transportation Technologies, Cerritos College.

"The wind tech program at Cerro Coso is essential to our industry. It is imperative that we have access to a pool of trained and educated individuals; this program will fulfill our employment needs. With the growth potential and meeting the mandates of the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the Tehachapi Mojave Wind Resource Area will develop an additional 4500 MW of wind generation; this growth will also have great employment potential for the local residents of Ridgecrest and the surrounding area," commented Linda Parker, Kern Wind Energy Association.

"Cerro Coso College is committed to serving the needs of our students, employers, and industry in our service area and the state. Our faculty have diligently worked with industry to develop a relevant, skill-based program that will prepare students to enter the workforce," stated Valerie Karnes, Dean of Career Technical Education, Cerro Coso Community College.

In the coming year, Cerro Coso will work with the primary and secondary schools to educate the next generation on emerging career opportunities in the renewable energy industry.