Thanks to a partnership between the Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities (PRCC) and the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), North Campus – West Hills Center, the college has started the application process to be a National Training Center of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC).

NAFTC Business Operations Specialist Laura Tinney recently attended a memorandum of agreement signing ceremony between PRCC and CCAC, an occasion that resulted from many months of hard work and preparation.

Signing ceremony between PRCC and CCAC

During the signing ceremony between PRCC and CCAC, from left, NAFTC Business Operations Specialist Laura Tinney, CCAC North Campus and West Hills Center President Donna Imhoff and PRCC President Jan Lauer display a cake congratulating the attending organizations. Credit: NAFTC

PRCC Coordinator Rick Price explained that he and the PRCC stakeholders saw a need for an NAFTC training center in Pennsylvania, and with Pittsburgh’s close proximity to Morgantown, the PRCC-CCAC partnership seemed like a perfect fit.

“Last fall, I approached CCAC about a collaboration,” Price noted. “They helped us with our (National AFV Day) Odyssey event, which had more than 150 people in attendance and many AFVs on display.”

Price added that CCAC’s membership with the NAFTC will allow the college to enhance its alternative fuel training in the Pittsburgh area.

“We would help support that where we could and definitely promote it,” Price said about the alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle training CCAC will offer through the partnership. “We’re going to use their facility to do outreach events.”

In addition, Price credited PRCC stakeholder Giant Eagle with being “the leaders in alternative fuels” in the Pittsburgh area because the company is training its automotive technicians in alternative fuels, more recently natural gas vehicles.

In fact, Giant Eagle technicians participated in the NAFTC’s Light-Duty Natural Gas Vehicles course, which trained several of the company’s technicians to service and maintain compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. Giant Eagle’s $900,000 Alternative Fuel Incentive Grant from former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, combined with a $2 million investment from the company, is allowing for the purchase of 10 CNG-powered vehicles and the installation of a public CNG refueling station as well as a private one.

“Giant Eagle and PRCC are very interested in developing natural gas training in the Pittsburgh area, so some of the money for CCAC’s NAFTC membership was written into Giant Eagle’s alternative fuel grant,” Tinney explained. “This partnership will allow CCAC to become an NTC and begin offering our courses on their campus.”

Beginning in fall 2011, CCAC’s Automotive Technology Program will offer Introduction to Hybrid Vehicles, which will teach students about high-voltage safety and working habits when performing service or maintenance to hybrid vehicles. In collaboration with the NAFTC, CCAC will be able to expand its alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle curricula.

“This course is reflective of our interest in supporting initiatives which advance green technologies and support the energy, economic, and environmental security of our communities by supporting the adoption of green practices,” said Donna Imhoff, Ph.D., campus president of CCAC’s North Campus and West Hills Center. “CCAC’s role has expanded beyond the automotive discipline to educate consumers, provide hands-on training and develop credit programs leading to additional green jobs through our Green Institute. Providing this education at our West Hills Center will allow technicians and industry members to train on these important technologies – for the first time in Allegheny County.”

Tinney added, “PRCC is a very active Clean Cities coalition, and they want to do what they can to facilitate and support the deployment of natural gas, electric and other alternative fuel vehicles. They have a dynamic Board of Directors that includes officials from the electric power and natural gas industries as well as schools.”

Officials from CCAC and PRCC sign a memorandum of agreement during a stakeholder meeting

Officials from CCAC and PRCC sign a memorandum of agreement during a stakeholder meeting April 1. From left are NAFTC Business Operations Specialist Laura Tinney, CCAC North Campus and West Hills Center President Donna Imhoff, PRCC President Jan Lauer and PRCC Coordinator Rick Price. Credit: NAFTC

Price said the most important element when it comes to mainstream success of alternative fuel vehicles is education.

“When we’re educating people about alternative fuels, the big gray areas are ‘If I do this, where do I refuel? If something goes wrong, who’s going to fix it?’” he commented. “Everything you do has to grow together. We have to grow the infrastructure with the fleets, and people have to be trained to service them – both the vehicles and the infrastructure.

“First responders also have to be trained in what type of vehicle they’re responding to,” Price added. “It relieves the anxiety if people have places they can go to, like our outreaches. The education has to be there, and we’re definitely going to promote that at CCAC. This is a big start, and I think it will be successful.”

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