SLCC receives solar energy grant

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To keep up with the ever-changing energy market, Salt Lake Community College will help develop and improve solar-panel installation courses and instruction modules to be used by several community colleges and schools in 11 surrounding states

The largest enrolled public school in Utah has earned a $3.1 million grant to facilitate the Rocky Mountain Solar Training Consortium, which likely will include Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and possibly more states, as determined by the U.S. Department of Energy, which awarded the grant.

SLCC was one of nine schools in the country to win a portion of the available $27 million, and the money awarded is the largest single grant in the school’s history. Other awardees include Penn State and North Carolina State University, as well as the University of Central Florida and various other community colleges.

SLCC’s “focus on green jobs,” as well as consideration to partner with Solar Energy International, which offers an already recognized and developed training program, helped to beat out the competition, according to SLCC Vice President Mason Bishop. He said SLCC “will meet both industry and instructional needs in capitalizing on the promise of these clean-energy technologies.”

“In a time of budget cuts, we need to get as many of the available federal dollars that are out there,” he said. “We are really working hard to be the state and national leader in energy and green jobs.”

The project is part of the federal government’s Solar Energy Technologies program and the Solar Installer Instructor Training network that was launched in early October. The program will train trainers and offer professional-development activities at local community and technical colleges that are developing and improving existing solar-photovoltaic and solar-heating and cooling installation courses. The idea addresses a critical need for high-quality, local and accessible training in solar-energy-system design, installation, sales and inspection, as more home builders are including energy-wise options.

Bishop said the money is necessary to get the students going on a path and implement courses that would produce trained professionals to contribute to the growing energy market. Students, he said, are becoming more interested in both the automotive-energy market, in the form of understanding alternative-fuel vehicles, and in construction fields that involve energy-management and solar-energy options.

“It would provide stackable credentials for those students,” Bishop said.

The program will use both online and hands-on training instruction at SEI’s existing solar-training facility. As part of the grant, SLCC will assist institutions and state directors of career and technical education in articulating solar-installation training to non-credit certificates and for-credit degrees and programs around individual state needs.

The Department of Energy is still looking for an administrator to oversee the national consortium project, but it is awaiting additional funding to move forward

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