Young people from across South Dakota and beyond attend Mitchell (South Dakota) Technical College to get their start in a growing industry. The Wind Turbine Technology program is a two-year program in which students learn the basics of turbines, mechanics, hydraulics, electronics, and the computer networks that allow the systems to communicate.
Noah Brinkman, an instructor in the program, did work for a contractor at the Crow Lake Wind Project, a Basin Electric owned and operated 172-MW wind facility, before he entered the field of education. The unique aspect of Mitchell Tech’s program is that students get hands-on experience when they climb a full-sized wind turbine owned by the school and located within the Crow Lake Wind Project.
“We use all the safety equipment, and you have to climb hand-over-hand the old-fashioned way. It’s a really good learning experience to have a fully functional tower to visit,” he says. “When your students get to the top, it’s always an exciting thing. It kind of makes you relive the first time you did that as well, just the wonder of it all.”
Brinkman says having a top-notch program close to home — and supported by an electric cooperative — is important for area students. “When I took the tour here as a new hire, I was impressed with the amount of robotics, like welding arms. There’s a lineman program, electrical utilities, and substation technology,” he says. “It’s nice to see the younger generation getting into the trades and taking an interest in working with their hands and fixing things, helping humanity in general.”