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Much of my time as an educator is spent looking to the future of our schools, the future careers of our students, and the future of our world and its economy. Our work focuses on understanding what challenges lay ahead and how we can shape a sustainable economy.

In the 21st century, finding a sustainable, recession-proof career is more challenging than it used to be. That also applies to sustainable energy resources.

Iowa has taken a bold approach to wind energy, cultivating its growth, production, and education. This makes it possible for our state to take strides in wind power that demonstrate our leadership. As we mark American Wind Week this August, Iowans have great progress to celebrate, while recognizing we have much room for growth.

wind turbine

Industrial wind turbine.

Iowa Lakes Community College invested in wind energy from the onset. Since 2004, Iowa Lakes Community College has been preparing top caliber technicians for the wind energy industry, utilizing state-of-the-art technology and training assets to provide the realism top technicians deserve.

With the nation's first AAS in Wind Energy & Turbine Technology and partnerships across the spectrum of industry, technicians that want to go farther, faster, choose Iowa Lakes. From siting and analysis to operations and maintenance, Iowa Lakes’ graduates are highly prepared for the technical challenges wind energy demands. Our safety focus delivers technicians who are well versed in working safely at height and have a willingness to work. A decade-and-a-half of experience means Iowa Lakes can transform careers as wind energy transforms America’s energy future.

Wind energy currently serves as Iowa’s number one source of renewable energy, producing over a third of all in-state electricity production. Annually, our wind turbines generate enough energy to power more than two million homes, and each year companies invest more in our state’s potential. Second in the nation in installed wind capacity, over 8,900 MW of installed wind generation represents $16 billion in capital investment in local communities, benefiting schools, and infrastructure improvements. According to the American Wind Energy Association, participating landowners across the state receive over $10-million in lease payments each year.

Iowa’s appetite for wind power has allowed education in the industry to flourish. Iowa’s community colleges offer wind technology programs that rank among the best available. The proof: our graduates earn $50 - $90-thousand per year with a two-year degree. The low cost of tuition means graduates have little to no college debt to pay off, improving earning potential. Wind energy technician is the nation’s second fastest-growing job according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and students receive multiple offers before graduation.

While many wind energy students start their journey with little to no experience, their desire to learn and a strong work ethic makes them ideal candidates for these high-demand, high-paying jobs. Wind energy jobs combine security and room for growth, without the financial burden that often accompanies a four-year degree. Fundamentally, it is a great way for Iowans to find success in a high-skill, high-paying industry that will continue to have an impact on America’s energy future.

Wind energy is incredibly important to Iowa. As a clean and growing source of energy, 10,000 Iowans have wind-related careers, and I am fortunate to spend time every day in this amazing field. With new projects coming online and new opportunities on the horizon, the sky is the limit in wind, and Iowa is poised to lead the way.

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Daniel Lutat is the director of Sustainable Energy Resources & Technologies for Iowa Lakes Community College.

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