Careers: Solar Technology

Careers: Solar Technology
Due to the tremendously growing demand in the field, new solar technology labs and training programs are opening at schools across the country.

Solar energy is a growing technology that may be one of the best options for oil in the future. To answer the call within the solar industry, more community colleges are coming on board to train a new workforce of solar energy technicians. From a new solar energy lab in Maine to programs in solar thermal systems across the country, those who are interested in this exciting, growing field can get the training they need to launch a rewarding career in the solar energy industry.

Solar Technology Lab Opens in Maine

Kennebec Valley Community College has plenty to celebrate this year. The school is opening a new Solar Heating and Cooling Lab in the Muriel P. Frye building on the Fairfield campus, according to a report in the Morning Sentinel. The college was chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 as one of nine regional resource and training locations nationwide. The Department of Energy partnered with the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education to launch the Solar Instructor Training Network at community colleges across the country.

The Solar Instructor Training Network is designed to prepare trainers for solar technology programs across the country. The trainers that complete the program will then go to various colleges to prepare students for careers in the solar heating and cooling industry. According to a report at WABI TV5, the lab at Kennebec has been in development for more than a year and serves as an example of how solar energy can be effectively used. The roof of the lab contains 360 glass tubes to harness solar energy.

“Those 360 glass tubes are on the roof; you’ll see them when you go outside,” Dana Doran, Director of Energy Programs at the college reported saying at the grand opening ceremony. “And those are putting heat into these two large tanks behind me. Those tanks supply heat for the building in the wintertime. And those tanks are supplying heat for a chiller we bought from a company in Germany that supplies air conditioning.”

The new building was partly paid for by funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Efforts by the college were applauded by Joseph Sarrubi, project manager for the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, who called the lab a “world-class facility.” The lab has hosted two training sessions for solar thermal instructors from seven states.

This video offers a look at solar technician training.

Solar Thermal Training Available in Colorado

Another community college offering solar thermal systems technician training is Arapahoe Community College in Colorado. The school features an Active Solar Thermal Systems Technician Certificate program to qualify students to work for solar systems dealers, installers, or contractors. According to the college website, the program includes the following:

  • System design
  • Safety and maintenance
  • Installation procedures
  • Basic plumbing methods

The program correlates with North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners' national standards. This organization is currently in the process of creating a Solar Thermal Entry-Level Exam, which the college plans to offer as soon as it is available.

Regional Instructor Training Offered in Utah

Like the Kennebec program, the Rocky Mountain Solar Training Program available at Salt Lake Community College offers training for instructors of solar photovoltaic and solar heating and cooling technologies. The Utah program is a partnership between the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Program, Salt Lake Community College, Solar Energy International, and the Utah Solar Energy Association.

According to the organization's website, the program is designed to expand the training capacity of community and technical college solar training programs within a 15-state region of the United States. The region includes Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. States within this region will utilize resources at community colleges, technical colleges, and technical high schools to teach students the basics of solar technology.

More Solar Training Offered in Arizona

Gateway Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, specifically offers a solar training program in photovoltaic systems. According to the Gateway website, the courses explore PV systems through the following:

  • Battery technology fundamentals
  • Determination of solar function
  • Principles and load calculations
  • System installation
  • Inverter operations and systems sizing
  • Wiring systems calculations
  • Identification of controller Students are prepared for entry-level positions in the solar technology industry tapes

This video offers another look at the job of a solar technician.

Hudson Valley will Train Solar Instructors on East Coast

Hudson Valley is another Eastern community college selected for the solar instructor training program. According to the college website, this college, located in New York, will be coordinating the Northeast Region Photovoltaic Instructor Training Network. States involved in the network include New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The network will coordinate and develop a national curriculum, sponsor workshops and create replica training models as part of their training for local instructors. The regional network promises to offer some of the highest-quality of photovoltaic training available in the country.

Solar energy is the wave of the future for the United States and across the globe. Unfortunately, a lack of skilled workers at this time could threaten to thwart plans to convert more buildings to solar power. With a bevy of solar training programs cropping up at community colleges nationwide, the hope is that a new generation of solar technology workers will rise up to answer the call and take the U.S. into the next phase of renewable energy development.

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