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Want a job? Think wind

Want a job? Think wind(By Anne B. Butterfield via Daily Camera)CHICAGO — New graduates emerging soon from high schools and colleges always

want to hitch their wagon to a star -- and the star most visible now on the

American horizon is a three-bladed turbine rotor.Our new graduates may be glad to know that in this economy that's squalid

with bad news,wind power is making jobs likecrazy while drawing people and

industries together. This was particularly evident at the recent WINDPOWER

Conference held this week in Chicago which drew a record breaking 23,000

people, 10,000 more than last year.Striding across the millions of square feet of the exhibition hall of the

conference, I caught wild glimpses, like a 6-foot diameter ring gear

framing the white-blonde heads of men with Danish accents leaning in to

chat with developers in cowboy hats, their pointed boots peeking out from

good trousers.Passing by a man yelling German into his phone, I heard snatches of English

on various levels of tech: "The finishing removes asperities while reducing

the surface less than a thousandth of an inch and doesn't change the

geometry of the gear," and, "We can retrofit commissioned turbines," and,

"Hey check out those temperature sensors!"Many of the new conference exhibitors were from the auto supply industry,

having broadened their mission to serve the wind industry as it rises to

the protean task of supplying 20 percent of the nation's energy in the next

20 years.Having added eight gigawatts of capacity to the grid in 2008 (a 60 percent

surge over the prior year) and inventing 35,000 jobs, the industry is

promising to match that contribution again this year.While our country is being slammed with plant closings and layoffs, the

wind industry is countering by opening plants every few months, with the

German company Siemens announcing this week it will open a 300,000 square

foot nacelle manufacturing plant in Hutchinson Kansas. Meanwhile the

industry is scrambling with community colleges to ramp up degree and

certificate programs to produce the sorely needed technicians to work on

brand new wind farms."We need welders, pipe fitters, all kids of vocational skills really, and I

would gladly pay a few cents per hour on each laborer's work to fund the

education of young people to be able to do this work," said Carole Engelder

of Horizon Wind, a prominent wind development company based in Texas.New technicians need to be ready to work where the wind is and that can

mean living in remote locations; they also need to be comfortable in the

confined space of a nacelle propped 400 feet in the air. Wind recruits need

to love cross-cultural communication because wind energy brings people

together from around the world and often plunges them into backcountry

areas steeped in proud tradition. Different customers require different

approaches.To work in manufacturing, strong candidates will have the math skills to

grasp tolerances of 2/1000th of an inch on a 14-foot diameter gear, and if

they get it wrong that means scrapping the piece.These requirements challenge employers to the point of poaching other

companies' workers or hiring kids out of training too early.College educated candidates will need training in combinations of

engineering and physics, finance, business, tax, and law, to seize the

toughest creative challenges like transmission, business development and

supply chain management. It doesn't hurt to know some Chinese, either, with

China opening a huge drive toward wind as well.The best chance for Americans to seize these domestic and international

jobs is to call Congress and declare "YES on RES" to support the Renewable

Electricity Standard that would require a national benchmark of about 20

percent of our power coming from renewables by 2020.America better call, because the fossil fuel lobby is paying top dollar to

lobbyists to keep business going as usual, and that means more nuclear

waste, more toxins