[singlepic id=634 w=320 h=240 float=right]ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the first arrangement of its kind between a national laboratory and a two-year college, Sandia National Laboratories and Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, N.M., recently signed a memorandum of understanding committing the two organizations to cooperate in enhancing the training program and developing and evaluating new technologies in the area of wind energy.

The MOU encourages Sandia and Mesalands’ North American Wind Research and Training Center (NAWRTC) to share resources and collaborate in exploring better turbine operations and maintenance, reliability of turbine components, and repair methods.

Much of the research will center on a 1.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbine installed at NAWRTC, a new $7 million facility for training wind energy technicians and performing operations and maintenance research.

“This MOU will help Sandia reach one of our wind energy goals — removing barriers for industry through workforce development,” says Jose Zayas, manager of Sandia’s Wind Energy Technology Department. “We want to foster a passion for wind energy at community colleges and universities that we hope will result in necessary training for the next generation of a qualified workforce that can further develop and support this industry.”

Zayas anticipates that jobs in the area of wind energy will expand over the coming years and that programs like that at Mesalands will help fill the void for qualified workers. In 2008, wind accounted for approximately 30 percent of the new power-producing capacity added to the national grid; more than 8,300 MW of wind capacity was installed in the U.S., bringing the total capacity to 25,170 MW.

Signing the MOU were Phillip Barry, president of Mesalands, and Stephen Roehrig, director of Sandia’s Energy, Resources, and Systems Analysis Center.

“This is an historic moment for our college,” Barry said at the signing. “The college initially seized the opportunity to establish the center [NAWRTC], and now with this MOU we can work with Sandia to help build a new green economy.”

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.