August 12, 2009

Alfred State College/SUNY College of Technology: Going Green and Loving It

Alfred State College/SUNY College of Technology is a small, public, coeducational, two- and four-year, nonsectarian college of some 3,300 undergraduates, but a lot of big things have been happening there over the past few years. Alfred State College was a leader in solar thermal energy in the 1970’s with its HVAC program, but like many…

Alfred State College/SUNY College of Technology is a small, public, coeducational, two- and four-year, nonsectarian college of some 3,300 undergraduates, but a lot of big things have been happening there over the past few years.

Alfred State College was a leader in solar thermal energy in the 1970’s with its HVAC program, but like many colleges, renewable and solar education offerings were a rarity as energy prices remained low.

“We continued to teach efficient design, installation and maintenance of systems in the design and skilled trades programs at the college, but there was no major emphasis on renewable energy until around 2002,” said Dr. Craig Clark.

In 2002, Alfred State College (ASC) revived its renewable energy efforts when it received a NYSERDA solar training grant. Working with Cattaraugus BOCES, ASC began to build the infrastructure to implement PV training programs in the classroom, and has been moving with lightning speed to keep up with the demand from students and the community for renewable energy training.

“When we started out,” said Jeff Stevens, assistant professor in the Electrician, Computer and Robotics Technician Department, “we only had 15 students for this eight-week pilot program. Because we were uncertain about how it would be received, it was offered under our continuing education department. We offered this class for two semesters, but changed up the model to an intensive one-week class when we realized that we had students from as far away as Long Island, NY and Illinois.”

This was just the beginning of a new direction for Alfred State.

In 2007, the College received an Appalachian Regional Commission grant which expanded ASC’s PV facilities and, at the same time, added small wind.

“This grant enabled the College to acquire multiple PV systems that included stand-alone battery, grid tie and combined battery /grid tie systems,” said Stevens. “We also have various small horizontal and vertical wind systems. Our courses offer students the necessary hands-on experience-whether it’s installing PV or erecting wind towers.”

Alfred State College quickly realized that integrating PV training into its electrical construction and maintenance electrician program made sense.

“We’ve also developed training for the existing workforce, through the College’s Center for Community Education and Training Workshops,” said Stevens. “Both PV and small wind courses are offered throughout the year are popular to individuals and companies looking to expand into the photovoltaic market. The College also offers one-day seminars and informational workshops where homeowners can strengthen their grasp of the technologies.”

According to Stevens, the Electrical Construction and Maintenance Electrician Program, which enrolls over 80 students during the academic year, has integrated both PV and small wind technology and training for the two-year Associate Degree in Occupational Studies (AOS) degree. ASC also offers a four-year Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Electrical Engineering Technology which uses the PV lab for its lab work. The NABCEP Certificate of Knowledge (COK) exam, offered at the College and taught by Stevens, has been a positive measurement of the training.

Adding to its renewable energy technology inventory, ACS installed a small demonstration horizontal loop geothermal system as part of the Mechanical Engineering Technology HVAC laboratory setup. In the fall HVAC students will be installing a geothermal system on a new showcase green home being built on campus. The home will be built to NAHB standards and use renewable energy. The goal is to be close to a zero energy home, demonstrating the intergradations of multiple renewable technologies into a completed home that the students can continue to train in and the public can visit.

“The building trades students have also been erecting and selling homes that are built to Energy Star standards,” said Stevens. “Most of the design programs and skilled trades programs at the college are going green, teaching sustainable design through installation of systems.”

With the help of dedicated faculty in just six years, Alfred State College has gone from offering continuing education classes in solar PV training for students and the community to serving as the lead college of SUNYGREENSNY to develop clean energy technology training across the state.

In 2008, ASC installed a 5.1kW PV system on its School of Applied Technology campus in Wellsville, NY. Students in ASC’s electrical construction and maintenance electrician program helped with the installation and layout. A four-day PV installation workshop for the public was held in conjunction with the full installation.

The PV system provides renewable power to offset the energy demands (almost 50%) of the library and administration of ASC’s School of Applied Technology in Wellsville, NY. The project was funded by a $20K donation from British Petroleum (BP) and $25k from NYSERDA through their incentive program. Stevens led the design and installation team, and Roy Butler, Four Winds Renewable Energy, Arkport, NY, directed the technical aspects.

“The students chose where to run conduits and where to install the components,” said Stevens. “They gained a tremendous sense of ownership in the project, and this experience inspired them to learn more.”

In June 2008, ASC was invited to participate in the second annual National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy’s Bio Energy Awareness Days (BEAD II) 2008 in Washington, DC.

“We took our renewable energy trailer which is outfitted with PV and small wind,” said Stevens, “Joseph Dunn, who was, at the time, USDA deputy-secretary for research, education and economics, liked what we were doing with renewable energy and workforce development. We entered into a five-year cooperative agreement with USDA to develop and install renewable energy technologies that will help the US National Arboretum reduce its carbon footprint.”

Just this spring, Stevens and five students from ASC’s electrical construction and maintenance electrician program spent a week in Washington, D.C. conducting a four-day workshop that resulted in the installation of a 1 kW PV array at Nursery 5 at the US National Arboretum. The six-panel PV system will run the nursery’s drip irrigation system.

The workshop, attended by arboretum staff, contractors and homeowners, offered hands-on instruction on how to construct and use the system. The President of Alfred State College, Dr. John Anderson and Dean Craig Clark, PE joined Stevens and the students in D.C. toward the end of the week.

“Our students were unbelievable,” said Stevens. “They taught right alongside of me-and they helped others learn about PV. I don’t know how this type of education and work experience combination can be any more real-world and rewarding.”

The five-year cooperative agreement with the Arboretum is in full swing.

“This academic year, we plan to install a 4 kW grid-tied PV system on the Arbor House, which is the gift house for the Arboretum,” said Stevens. Once again, to open up the solar PV experience to others, USDA will advertise for public installation experience, but ASC will coordinate the tasks.”

President Anderson has expanded the vision of the College to include an Institute for Sustainability which includes both a Center for Renewable Energy and the Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriprenuership. Under this vision, the college is also exploring hosting a full fledge commercial wind farm developed by Empire State Wind Energy.

“Just this past spring, our students erected a 200-foot tower to measure wind speeds.” said Stevens. “After we gather sufficient data and secure community support, a 12-15 turbine wind farm will be installed on the college with additional turbines on adjacent land if owners agree.”

As if this isn’t enough to keep Stevens and his colleagues at ASC busy, in May ‘09, ASC seven partners including six NYS community colleges, and the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC)/Empire State Chapter, formed SUNYGREENSNY, an initiative that grew out of the efforts and recommendations of NYS Gov. David Paterson’s Renewable Energy Task Force.

As a result, SUNYGREENSNY received a $2M grant from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) to develop and expand clean energy technology training across the state. The grant will focus on workforce education in the area of emerging clean energy technologies, including photovoltaic (PV), wind (both wholesale and customer-sited), solar thermal, and geothermal. The consortium goals will focus on enhancing building capacity in the state by developing laboratories and faculty expertise to conduct training in these clean energy technologies.

“The reason we were asked to lead SUNYGREENSNY initiative was because of our expertise and the great facilities we’ve developed in renewable energy here at Alfred State,” said Craig Clark, executive director of the Wellsville campus and dean of the School of Applied Technology. “Our skilled trades are key; they understand the technical issues with implementing renewable energy.”

The community colleges, all part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system–Sullivan County Community College, Dutchess Community College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, Westchester Community College, and Broome Community College–have the expertise and necessary related curriculums. The grant will enhance all of these programs by integrating clean energy technology using current faculty expertise in such areas as design, construction, installation, instrumentation, and maintenance.

Although Alfred State College will serve as the lead college of SUNYGREENSNY, all colleges and the ABC are considered full partners. The programs and delivery developed under this grant will have consistent learning outcomes throughout the consortium.

SUNYGREENSNY includes Master Trainer Roy Butler (Four Winds), serving as the lead technical expert on certification and working with the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners). He will work with the other technical instructors to obtain their certification with the long-term goal having a number of master trainers available in the state.

SUNYGREENSNY partners will develop modules for credit courses in existing programs, develop a plan for curriculum modules that meet NYSERDA program requirements, and stay aligned with applicable national standards. The modules will include the learning outcomes as defined by the appropriate certification body such as NABCEP, ISP (Institute for Sustainable Power) and IREC (Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc.). The Consortium will develop modules that can be integrated into existing programs at all the colleges and the ABC apprenticeship program. These same modules will be the foundation for stand-alone courses for professional development and certification programming as continuing education.

As school is gearing up for the Fall semester, I ask Stevens if he’s ready.

“We are moving forward on various fronts including the SUNYGREENSNY grant, the most exciting part of each fall is again working with the students. The greening of the program has assisted the college in making sure the students are also just as excited “

For more information about ASC’s renewable energy programs, contact Jeff Stevens or Dr. Craig Clark.