When Ethan Hunter started his classes in the Iowa Lakes Community College wind turbine and energy technology program a year and a half ago, the other students took notice.
First of all, Hunter was originally from Turkey. Second of all, he was already CEO of Global Alternative Energy Solutions, a company based in Istanbul and New York which services the needs of wind energy developers in Turkey. Finally, it was the fact that Hunter wasn't looking for a job when he finished the program. Instead, he was looking to hire his fellow classmates.
At its last meeting, the Iowa Lakes Community College Board of Trustees agreed to have the college enter into negotiations with Hunter in the formation of Wind Academy Turkey. The college would be one of several partners, the other being Hunter, the Turkish government, the Turkish Wind Energy Adminstration and American wind turbine manufacturers. Hunter said the company would be US-based.
In phase one, the academy will certify wind industry employees in a safety program of one to two weeks.
Phase two will target certified mechanical or electrical engineers through a program of six to 10 weeks geared to the wind industry. Hunter looks for finalizing an agreement for the academy by mid-2013.
Hunter says he wants to tap into the expertise of the Iowa Lakes wind program because of its prestigious reputation and take it to his native country. He sees that as only natural, since American companies have been looking overseas to develop wind resources - particularly in country where those sources are vast.
Hunter said that in 2010 the Turkish government revised regulations, making wind the cheapest energy source and the easiest to develop. "The wind industry is growing all over the globe, especially Turkey," said Hunter. He said Turkey hopes to generate a third of its electricity from wind by 2020.
However, manpower there is short to work on turbines - and not cheap, either. Hunter said European technicians get $25 to $30 Euros an hour to work to turbines. As a result, GE wind will make a sizable investment there over the next three years. According to Business Week, General Electric Co. (GE) will invest $900 million in aviation, energy, health, transportation and infrastructure in Turkey over the next three years after the government offered incentives to investors.
"It's the correct time to bridge the market between the US and Turkey," said Hunter, noting that relations are already good between Turkey and the US which has military bases there. Hunter said he plans to deploy Iowa Lakes-trained instructors to Turkey.
"This was my idea since the first day I came here," said Hunter.
Hunter said over winter break he's meeting with the Turkish vice minister of energy and the minister of education with visits by Iowa Lakes representatives to follow.
As CEO of Global Alternative Energy Solutions, Hunter has already been coordinating maintenance, monitoring and insurance services between the US and Turkey. "I'm just a bridge," Hunter explained.
After graduation in May, Hunter plans on staying in the US, but making frequent trips to Turkey. In addition to instructors with wind industry experience, he'll be looking for new graduates from the program. He will try to schedule classes in
Turkey in the off-times when classes aren't going on in Estherville. His involvement in the project has developed to the extent that he plans on translating a Turkish version of a book written by one of his professors, Dr. Ahmed Hamani.
As its economic growth outstrips its current energy supplies, Turkey finds itself buying energy from other countries, said Hunter, including natural gas from Russia and electricity from Greece and Belgium, putting Turkey at the mercy of pricing by those countries. Recognizing the need for its own homegrown energy, Turkey is proving government land for siting turbines at no charge for 10 years or 80 percent of the cost of leasing private land for the same period.
Hunter stresses that he is still working to put the agreement together and that he is not representing GE Wind in the project.
"My first target is to sit at the same table as the US manufacturers," said Hunter.