From “CVTC plugs Energy Education Center into budget” — By Andrew Dowd Leader-Telegram staff — After several years of fundraising and planning, Chippewa Valley Technical College plans to start building a $10.3 million Energy Education Center in August.

With funding included in the 2014-15 budget the CVTC Board approved at its Thursday meeting, the college plans an addition and renovation of a current building to create the new center at its West Campus in Eau Claire.

“This is the year — after four years of planning and raising money — we’ll get to build the Energy Education Center,” CVTC President Bruce Barker said.

The new center still needs approval from the Wisconsin Technical College System Board in July and a second CVTC Board vote following that. A groundbreaking ceremony has tentatively been scheduled for Aug. 19, and CVTC intends for the center to open in fall 2015.

“The project’s become much more tangible,” Tom Huffcutt, CVTC’s vice president of operations, said.

The Energy Education Center will be created through renovation of three areas in the current Transportation Education Center, plus a 21,300-square-foot addition and a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient overhaul of the building’s air conditioning, heating and ventilation system.

Most of those costs will come from borrowing, but about $3 million will be paid by the CVTC Foundation.

About $2 million in private donations have already been made specifically to the center, Barker said, and about $520,000 in foundation reserves would be used too.

Any remaining portion of the foundation’s share could be paid through borrowing, said Kirk Moist, director of finance and borrowing.

The energy center will serve several programs, including electrical power distribution, electric line worker apprentices, landscape, plant and turf management, agriscience and farm business production management. The center will help the students study emerging sustainable energy sources, clean energy generation and distribution, and efficient energy utilization.

“The continued economic recovery in west-central Wisconsin is tied to energy security and independence,” stated a CVTC letter to the state technical college board.

CVTC’s capital projects — money spent on buildings and equipment — is increasing by about 29 percent in the budget, which was approved in a 7-0 vote of CVTC Board members at Thursday’s meeting.

The college had budgeted about $11.9 million for that in the past year, but is expecting to spend $15.3 million in 2014-15.

Though overall spending at the college is rising, local property taxes for CVTC are dropping dramatically.

The CVTC portion of a property tax bill on a $150,000 home will drop from $260 this year to $137 in 2015, according to the budget.

CVTC’s property taxes dive by $16.5 million in the proposed budget, but state aid is rising by about $18.2 million.

The property tax relief comes from Republican legislators who directed $406 million in state funds to technical colleges from a projected $1 billion state budget surplus.

CVTC accounts for a relatively small portion of local property tax bills when compared to municipal, county and school taxes. In Eau Claire, CVTC accounted for 7 percent of this year’s property tax bill.


From “CVTC Foundation receives grant from DuPont Pioneer” — DuPont Pioneer has donated $5,000 to the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) Foundation toward the development of an Energy Education Center. Local account manager Patrick Branick sponsored this grant.

The funds will be directed toward the development of an Energy Education Center which is aimed at preparing a skilled workforce in energy technologies, and serve as a regional demonstration site to support energy-based economic development.

“We are excited to support the development of the Energy Education Center which will focus on areas such as bioenergy development,” said Branick.

Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) already works diligently to fill the need for an energy workforce. The College currently offers eight energy-related educational programs, including: Agriscience; Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration; Civil Engineering; Electrical Power Distribution; Electric Line Utility Apprenticeship; Environmental Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, and Heating Service; Landscape Management; and Residential Construction.

“With the agricultural base and strong manufacturing industry in western Wisconsin, Chippewa Valley Technical College is ideally suited for pursuing additional economic growth and development in the bioenergy sector,” said CVTC Dean of Industry, Agriculture and Energy Aliesha Crowe.

Pioneer makes contributions to community-based organizations on behalf of the business and employees. Consideration for outreach grants are given to communities where Pioneer representatives, employees and customers live and work and that support quality-of-life initiatives to create an improved, sustainable lifestyle for people worldwide.


From “Constellation awards $310,000 in Energy Education grants” — Energy company Constellation has selected 10 recipients for its 2013 E2 Energy to Educate grant program. Winning institutions will win a share of $310,000 to fund projects that will affect 21,000 students in grades 6 through college.

Winners and their projects include:

  • The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, where 180 students will help make a classroom that uses only solar energy;
  • One-hundred-twenty Coppin State University students will study new energy technology, such as quantum dot solar cells and nanotechnology;
  • More than 1,100 high school and college students will help create “a 200 square-foot energy learning station” and “an energy-efficient architectural design for a new 2500 square-foot Evergreen Energy Education (E3) EHC classroom facility that will provide a functioning example of green energy solutions” at the Evergreen Heritage Foundation, according to information released by Constellation;
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University will host a conference on global sustainability and renewable energy for 550 students from various New Jersey high schools;
  • Green Street Academy and Living Classrooms Crossroads School will expand their Green Street Racers after school program and competition;
  • The “Baltimore-Washington Electric Vehicle Initiative (BEVI) will engage a youth service corps of high school and college students focused on electric vehicle education,” according to information released by Constellation;
  • Faculty from Mid-State Technical College will provide curriculum and instruction to help students from four high schools measure the energy efficiency of their school facilities and design a photovoltaic system. The system will then be used as a demonstration unit for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses;
  • The Rochester Museum will help students learn about energy consumption and production with hands on design and build challenges in a new Inventor Center exhibit;
  • Solar One has developed the Green Design Lab, “a hands-on sustainability curriculum aimed at greening urban schools,” according to information released by Constellation; and
  • The University of Maryland Baltimore County will host a competition that asks 200 students to design new demand response technology.

“Constellation is proud to support student creativity and innovation through our Energy to Educate program,” said Joseph Nigro, CEO of Constellation, in a prepared statement. “We congratulate this year’s grant recipients for their efforts in developing hands-on projects that explore energy issues.”

More information on the winning projects is available at


From “Funds sought for building on CVTC’s West Campus” — A $7.9 million Energy Education Center planned for Chippewa Valley Technical College’s West Campus in Eau Claire is included in the school’s budget for the upcoming academic year.

Scheduled for a hearing and vote Thursday evening, CVTC’s 2012-13 budget would increase spending for the building and associated renovations but would not raise property taxes.

“There’s zero dollar change in the levy when compared to last year,” said Kirk Moist, CVTC’s director of finance and budgeting.

The upcoming budget is the second year of a state-mandated freeze on technical colleges’ operating costs, and CVTC’s debt payments are staying level.

CVTC plans to pay for the Energy Education Center — consisting of a 24,000-square-foot renovation of the Transportation Center on the West Campus and a 30,000-square-foot addition — through a mix of its own funding and donations.

“The big ‘if’ is there still is private-sector money being raised to pay for a large portion of the project,” said Doug Olson, CVTC’s executive director of facilities.

About $1 million in business donations still is needed before the project can move forward, he said.

When all the money is secured, CVTC would need the approval of its own board and the state Technical College System Board before building the new center.

The center will teach applications of alternative energy sources, including biofuels, solar power, geothermal heating and wind energy. College programs including heating, ventilation and air conditioning; civil engineering; construction; and electrical power distribution would be based at the center because those fields are seeing increasing use of green technology.

In recent years the college renovated parts of the Business Education Center, but the last major project was the creation of the $10.25 million Health Education Center in 2004.

“Anytime we do a major project, there’s an upward blip,” Moist said of CVTC’s spending.

The proposed budget shows a minor bump up for what taxpayers will be billed for CVTC.

The owner of a $100,000 home that paid $174.17 in taxes last year to CVTC would see a $2.65 tax increase under the proposed budget. But that’s only assuming the property value of that hypothetical home did not fall.

While the tax rate paid by homeowners will appear larger on their bill in December, that’s because property values have fallen in the technical college district’s 11-county area and are expected to again decline.

“Our property values have gone down three years in a row,” Moist said.

Currently valued at about $20.3 billion, properties within the district are projected to fall in value by about $305 million in the next year, according to CVTC’s proposed budget.

From “Great Lakes Energy Education Center created at NWTC” — Wisconsin, like the rest of America, needs energy–especially domestic and alternative sources that increase our energy independence. We also need to make the best use of our energy investments in order to remain competitive.

Yet the demand for skilled energy technicians is outpacing the current supply, and too few new workers are training to meet the need. Increasing that workforce has the potential to make the region stronger and safer.

NWTC has established the Great Lakes Energy Education Center to power up the local energy workforce. Offerings will span the power pipeline, from production to distribution to efficiency. Training will include associate degrees, technical diplomas, certificates and apprenticeships. Alternative energy sources, like solar and wind, will be taught alongside the traditional technologies that will bring that power to customers.

Amy Kox, associate dean-Energy and Sustainability programs, will oversee the new area. “It makes sense that generation, distribution and then analyzing the overall energy efficiency would be under one umbrella,” she said. “There are so many pieces that are interrelated. It helps the students and the community to think of them that way.”

Current program students and graduates are already bringing a lot of energy into their field. “The job I am currently doing is a job that only a certain number of people can do,” says Brad Kegley, student in Electrical Power Distribution. “Working with high voltages of electricity is an awesome trade. People thank me very often for keeping the power on in their home. It’s a great feeling.”

“I start in three weeks and am very excited,” says Chad Anthony, Gas Utility graduate. “From the start this has been my dream job and location.”

The Center takes advantage of state-of-the-art facilities already in place, which graduates say prepare them well for jobs that require wide-ranging skills. Jonathan Leick, a May 2011 Utilities Engineering Technology  graduate, said that since being hired at Energis High Voltage Resources, “I’ve been doing a wide range of jobs to help utility customers prevent problems with their substation equipment [including] testing transformers, taking oil samples, and testing relays which protect all substation components and the power grid it serves.”

The positive forecasts in the energy sector are based in part on simple physics. No matter how technology changes, we will need energy to make it run. As homes and workplaces become increasingly automated and electronic, their power demand grows.

“The utility industry is not going away any time soon,” notes Paul Retzlaff, a graduate of Utilities
Engineering Technology who is also working at Energis. “If you want a career with endless opportunities and growth, then this is the field for you.”

While demand is growing, the supply of experienced workers is shrinking. In the utility industry, 53 percent of the workforce will be retiring or preparing for retirement within the next seven years. That will amount to hundreds of job openings in Northeast Wisconsin that can only be filled by trained experts.

Even outside the utility industry, new opportunities are growing in businesses where improving efficiency can create significant cost savings. NWTC’s own energy management initiative saved the College at least $200,000 in three years. The Energy Management associate degree program was established specifically to bring those benefits to area employers in any industry.

The industry as a whole seems to attract problem-solvers, says Mark Weber, dean of Trades and Engineering Technologies. “They tend to be technically-savvy individuals,” Weber said. “They’re often interested in conservation of resources. They’re independent, entrepreneurial, proactive thinkers. They want to be part of the solution, to make a difference, and to be on the cutting edge of resource development. There’s also a patriotic appeal, because you’re helping your country through resource independence.”

The other characteristic they clearly share is that they truly enjoy their work. As Kegley said, “Not everybody can say they get to work on high voltage electricity. Not every job gives you the opportunity to make people happy such as [by] restoring their power. Not every job you get to drive snow cats or take helicopters to remote locations. It takes a certain breed to do this job and everybody respects it.”

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