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A New Breeze for Green Careers: Wind Energy Studies

A gust of new wind energy jobs is helping fuel the fast-growing green career field.

More than 2,000 people are currently employed by the U.S. wind industry, working with power plants and manufacturing facilities that produce equipment such as wind turbines, gearboxes, blades, generators, and electronic components, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Wind and solar energy are likely to be among the largest sources of new manufacturing jobs worldwide during this century, the association says, and wind energy jobs could grow to 150,000 in the U.S.

The declining cost of wind energy production and increase in demand for power sources that don't harm the environment has caused wind farms to pop up around the country, according to Oklahoma State University.

California boasts much of the wind power development, followed by Texas. Other states such as Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming also have wind plants operating.

Engineers, technicians, attorneys, business professionals, and construction workers are among the professionals that the wind energy industry needs. Many of the AWEA's 1,600 member companies are seeking bachelor's degrees in engineering or related fields or graduates from recently developed wind energy programs.

Colleges and universities have created wind power programs at the associate, bachelor, doctorate, and certificate levels. Here's a look at some of the programs, which demonstrate the variety of wind power education and training today.

Iowa Lakes Community College
- The Estherville, Iowa, school offers a two-year accredited associate in applied science degree in wind energy and turbine technology that teaches technicians to install, service, and maintain wind turbines.

Texas Wind Energy Institute - The Texas Wind Energy Institute, a partnership between Texas Tech University and Texas State Technical College, offers an associate in applied science degree in wind energy and turbine technology and a Ph.D. in wind science and engineering. It also offers a wind energy/technical certificate and wind energy/managerial certificate. The associate's degree in wind energy and turbine technology teaches students to operate and maintain the systems that make a wind turbine function.

Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City
- Students in Oklahoma State University's accredited program can earn an associate in applied science in wind turbine technology. A wind turbine technology certificate also is offered. Students study the operation and maintenance of motors and generators, the processes involved in using wind energy to generate electrical power, and work hands-on with wind turbines.

Lansing Community College
- The programs through the Lansing Community College's Alternative Energy Initiative in Lansing, Mich., include an associate's in applied science degree in alternative energy engineering technology and a wind turbine technician certificate.

University of Iowa - The University of Iowa's College of Engineering offers a M.S. in industry engineering with a focus on wind power management and a Ph.D. in wind power management. The Iowa City, Iowa, program educates professionals to work with the design, operations, and management of wind farms and to manage wind power facilities and their interactions with other systems for generating power.

As much as 20 percent of the national energy needs could be fed by wind-generated power in the future, according to data from the University of Iowa, so the sky appears to be the limit with wind power careers.