Solar Energy Training in Kansas, the Sunflower State

By Derek Reilley
Colby Community College

Note: Kansas may not be the first state you think of  for solar training, but Derek Reilley, Renewable/Sustainable Energy Program Director at Colby Community College in Colby, Kansas, may make you think differently. Colby Community College is a partnering training organization working with Salt Lake Community College in the Rocky Mountain RTP. Derek is the project lead for CCC’s solar training program. Here’s his update. eds.

Solar PV Panels and Derek @ Colby CC

Derek Reilley amid PV equipment at Colby Community College.
Image: Colby Community College

Colby Community College has implemented three curriculum options for students interested in solar photovoltaics:

  1. Certificate of Completion in Solar Photovoltaic: 12 credit hours–designed for individuals seeking a career change;
  2. Technical Certificate Solar Photovoltaic:  36 credit hours–designed for students wanting to directly enter the work force;
  3. Associate of Applied Science Degree in Sustainable/Renewable Energy (emphasis in Solar Photovoltaic and Small Wind):  66 credit hours–designed for students seeking a degree, to enter the workforce in Solar Photovoltaic and/or small wind, or continue their education to earn a Bachelors Degree.  Colby Community College and Kansas State University has an articulation agreement for students to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sustainable/Renewable Energy and Technology Management (see K-State attached document).  This degree enables a student to enter Kansas State University as a junior. Because the Bachelor’s Degree is online, students have the option to enter the workforce while completing their degree or concentrate on their education.

To complement our programs, our college has a grid-tie 50 kW/h solar photovoltaic array and a 50 kW/h grid-tie wind turbine on our campus, and a 2.4 kW/h Skystream at our college farm.

Monica and Izmael

Image: Colby Community College

Our curriculum follows the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) objectives.  All programs are offered online and many of Colby’s courses have a one-day “Boot Camp.”  The Boot Camps have been a huge success with our students and give them the hands-on skills necessary to succeed in the solar photovoltaic industry.

Our programs also have an advisory committee of industry experts who advise and support our programs. The Advisory board strives to have the best curriculum, equipment, and training for our students.  The advisory committee consists of both local companies as well as industry experts in other states.  To date, Colby Community College has had students enrolled in all three programs.  One student is currently working on his Bachelor’s Degree with Kansas State University.  Currently we have labs for grid-direct and off-grid systems.

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