A solar event and it wasn’t raining! (no kidding)

How many solar events have you been to (or organized) where it rained or was cloudy?  You know what I’m talking about.

But Saturday, December 11th in Austin was an anomaly, at least for a solar event. It was breathtakingly sunny.

Michael Kuhn and his brilliant (and talented) team at ImagineSolar International’s training school were having a holiday open house. Happily, I put on my shades and met up with Richard Stovall, ImagineSolar’s Director of Operations, for a tour (he had sunglasses on, too).

ImagineSolar’s shop is housed at the Austin Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (AEJATC), and together with the Austin Workforce Investment Board, they’re training the Central Texas workforce with skill sets ranging from unskilled labor to highly skilled electricians, thanks to a U.S. Department of Labor grant.

Outside, 15 students were working on their final installation for the PV 400 series, enabling them to sit for NABCEP’s Entry Level Exam.  “We’ve taught the 400-series three times now to some 60 students,” said Stovall.

Inside, a couple of electricians enrolled in NABCEP’s Alternative Experience Pathway Program (AEP) were working to satisfy the experience requirements to sit for the NABCEP Certified PV installer exam.

Back in May 2010, when the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) launched its Alternative Experience Pathway (AEP) for electricians to satisfy the experience requirements to sit for the NABCEP Certified PV installer exam, it began to look around for the right venue to pilot this new program.  It didn’t have to look very far.  According to Ezra Auerbach, NABCEP’s Executive Director, ImagineSolar was the perfect choice to pilot the AEP because of ImagineSolar’s partnership with the AEJATC and its IBEW and NECA partners.

“These guys are taking their fourth class here at ImagineSolar: PV201 (PV System Design & Installation, 40 hours);  PV320 (Advanced PV System Design, 20 hours);  PV321 (Advanced PV System Installation, 20 hours); and PV330 (Project Field Experience Workshop NABCEP Alternative Pathway, 40 hours), for a total of 120 hours.  So far, we’ve trained 37 electricians through to make them eligible to sit for NABCEP’s PV certification exam in March 2011.”

It’s a busy place, with model roofs, boxes of PV panels, inverters, electrical panels, all beautifully installed and arranged for training.  With the recent explosion of training schools and programs in the U.S., the folks at ImagineSolar started out right and continue to raise the bar for training.  Besides having highly qualified and multi-credentialed instructors, Michael Kuhn is an IREC ISPQ Master Trainer.

Richard invited me to scale the ladder to the roof to view the Solyndra system.  The technology is CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide) and thin-film, surprisingly lightweight (even I can pick it up), efficient, and incredibly fast to install.  The cylindrical system captures sunlight across 360-degrees, which makes it beautifully efficient, especially when installed on a white roof.   “The tubes capture photons on both sides, directly from the sun as well as those reflected off the white rootop,” said Richard.

And it’s so cool.  If I ever had PV envy before, I’ve got it really bad now.


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