Northeast Texas Community College (NTCC), a National Training Center member of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, will offer a course about the purpose, design and delivery of solar photovoltaic energy.

Scheduled for Aug. 18-25, the course will be led by alternative energy instructor Jim Wylie, a solar photovoltaic installer trained by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The 48-hour class will provide an introduction and continuing training and education for employees and prospective employees with an interest in solar energy installation and the green industry. It offers 16 hours of instruction in interactive demonstrations and laboratory practice in commercial and residential solar installations.

Students will gain understanding in various solar installation components including instrument usage, calculations and wiring. They will also learn tool selection, mechanical techniques, AC/DC electrical applications, photovoltaic code, plumbing, regulation requirements and component testing.

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A participant learns how to install panels during Northeast Texas Community College’s solar course. Credit: NTCC

Upon completion, students will walk away with an understanding of the best practices and fundamentals in safety hazards, installations and troubleshooting with a comprehensive approach to solar energy and photovoltaic installation.

Wylie explained that NTCC offers two separate solar courses – Solar Photovoltaic (electric) Installer and Solar Thermal (hot water heating) Installer. Both start electricians, heating/AC technicians, business owners, under employed workers, college students and high school workforce students toward National American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification. According to NTCC’s website, these courses, which are offered as continuing education units (CEUs) through the Continuing Education Department, can lead to new business opportunities or employment in the green industry.

In addition, both solar classes are made possible by the college’s Student Transportation Services and Alternative Fuels Project, which is funded by a DOE grant. The project originally focused on producing and using biodiesel but was expanded to include solar energy with certification training.

During the fall 2010 Solar Photovoltaic Installer Course, Wylie graduated five master electricians and two journeyman electricians.

“The new course in August will include an updated and expanded electrical code presentation,” he explained. “I have also been directed to explore making these courses into distance learning, continuing education presentations on DVD.”

Wylie said NTCC’s rural setting makes DVD courses attractive to those who are interested in alternative fuels but may not have the time or resources to travel to the school.

He added that solar technology is advancing and may become more useful for vehicles in the future.

“What participants learn in the Solar Photovoltaic Installer Course would be relevant if electric cars had solar panels,” Wylie said. “Right now with what’s going on in the industry, the efficiency of solar panels is greatly improving by leaps and bounds. It’s possible we could see car surfaces actually made with materials such as thin solar panels. There are glass windows that you can see through being installed into office buildings, and they are actually producing solar energy. That technology is not quite here yet for vehicles.”

During the biodiesel course, participants use canola oil or another vegetable oil to make quart jars of biodiesel. They then can take their knowledge and produce it in larger drums.

“They can purchase a biodiesel system to start production in their home, at the farm or for their small business,” Wylie noted. “A local McDonald’s manager is making his own biodiesel for his vehicles.”

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