Turbine maintenance offers Lake Land College students one-of-a-kind training opportunity
When Charleston natives Ian Ippolito and Ben Brazzell were approached about participating in a special project by their renewable energy instructor, Joe Tillman, they couldn’t have been more thrilled.
“The experience I’m getting through this opportunity will give me a great advantage over other wind technicians when I’m looking for full-time work after graduation. There is no doubt about that,” said Brazzell.
For the project Ippolito and Brazzell, renewable energy students, will work alongside Tillman and other renewable energy professionals from Lake Land and Bora Energy to repair a rotor bearing in the nacelle of the south wind turbine located on campus. The rotor bearing is a mechanical part at the center of the turbine’s nacelle that allows for blade rotation.
According to Tillman, he and his team have been working to identify this mechanical issue, which has prevented the turbine from functioning correctly, since it was erected last spring.
“The 40-inch bearing is the cause of this disassembly, which is likely the result of a manufacturing error that came to light during the first months of the turbine’s operation,” explained Tillman. “We suspected this flaw was preventing the turbine from operating properly and Bora confirmed our suspicions. We can now move forward to make the repair and get the turbine back in working order.”
Tillman said that repairing the rotor bearing will offer his students and other students in the Technology Division unique learning opportunities. According to him throughout this process, Ippolito and Brazzell will apply what they’ve learned and practiced in his wind technology classes to a real-world, problem-solving situation.
“Ian and Ben were taught about bolts and torque regarding wind turbines; now they experience it,” said Tillman. “They practiced climbing and rope rescue and will now get to apply those skills in a real job setting. Further, they’ve learned about the mechanical and electrical aspects of wind turbines and now they’ll put that knowledge to use by disconnecting and repairing mechanical linkages and electrical wires.”
Likewise, Tillman said there is an opportunity for other programs in the Technology Division like computer aided design, machining, welding, mechanics and electronics to be involved in the turbine repair so that those students can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world setting.
“Lake Land students are fortunate in that the college allows them the opportunity to work on machines located just a few 100 yards away from their classrooms,” said Tillman. “Few other institutions offer this kind of training.”
According to Ippolito, he and Brazzell have already gained a significant amount of experience even though they’ve only been on the job for a week.
“When we took the blades and nacelle down, we dove right in and got to work next to the other wind technicians, which was a blast,” explained Ippolito. “I volunteered to get up in the bucket and helped strap the blades to the crane so they could be taken down. We also got inside of the nacelle once it was on the ground and got right to work on the mechanical aspects of it.”
The two 100 kilowatt turbines were assembled as part of Lake Land College’s campus-wide renewable energy initiative, which aims to reduce energy consumption by creating a replicable energy control system across campus, while at the same time creating training opportunities for the college’s renewable energy students.
Each turbine is estimated to produce more than 220,000 kilowatt hours each year, thereby reducing the number of kilowatt hours of electricity needed by 440,000. Upon the repair of the south turbine, the college estimates that the energy savings will be around $44,000 annually.
Lake Land College offers several courses in the sustainability field and received a grant for state- of-the-art equipment and materials to provide students with hands-on learning in emerging Green Job Technology fields such as building, retrofitting, solar and wind power, and smart grid technologies. At Lake Land, students can now earn an associate degree in Renewable Energy and/or three certificates in the field – Sustainable Energy, Renewable Energy and Renewable Energy Management.
This project is made possible by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding via the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and a Community-Based Job Training Grant from the U. S. Department of Labor. The 100kW wind turbines are funded by approximately 18% of a $2,542,762 CBJT grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Funding from the DCEO is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under Award Number DE-EE0000119.
To learn more about the college’s sustainable energy initiatives and educational programs, visit www.lakeland.cc.il.us/as/tec/sustain/index.cfm.
Cutline: Lake Land College renewable energy students Ian Ippolito, at left, and Ben Brazzell, at right, are working with instructor Joe Tillman and other renewable energy professionals to repair the south turbine located on Lake Land’s campus. The repair offers a unique training opportunity for these students and other students in the Technology Division at Lake Land College.