By Kathy Swartz
Solar Energy International
Rocky Mountain RTP

Madison Area Technical College (MATC) in Madison, Wisconsin, and Solar Energy International (SEI), recently held an Advanced Solar Electric Academy for community college and high school instructors from across the United States and Guam at SEI’s training facility in Paonia, Colorado. The training was funded through MATC’s National Science Foundation grant (#1205015).

  • 26 instructors participated. Each instructor had taken at least 40-100+ hours of training prior to being accepted into this program.
  • The instructors were from seven high schools and 14 community colleges and universities from across the county
  • Eight of the 14 colleges are part of the Department of Energy’s Solar Instructor Training Network

The 2014 training focused on operations and maintenance of PV systems, as well as the installation of battery-based systems. Previous trainings had focused on grid-tied PV design and installation.

MATC group photo (1)
2014 MATC & SEI Solar Training at Paonia, CO

Through MATC, the CERET Train the Trainer Academy  complements the work that the Solar Instructor Training Network is doing because it offers introductory and advanced opportunities for instructors implementing solar into their institutions. A lot of focus is spent on sharing resources and best practices that can immediately be utilized in classrooms. One instructor commented after the training, “For educators, the process of instructional delivery is excellent because of how they use small group instruction, problem solving, and questioning. SEI sets the standard for what I can do in my classroom.”

Jennifer Clemons, Delaware Technical Community College, is an example of an instructor who is active the SITN and CERET programs. Her school is a partnering institution through the SITN’s Northern Mid-Atlantic Region run by Penn State University. Through the SITN, she’s able to bring her students to Penn State University’s GridSTAR facility at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia for intensive hands-on training.

“My educational background in energy was more liquid fuels and fuel cells. I had very little training on solar while in school. My first teaching job was in sustainable energy technology, so I was required to teach all the solar and wind classes. I took my first SEI solar class in August 2010 to prepare me for these classes. Currently I require both the solar electric book and the design and installation manual for my students. I still pull out my notes and workbooks occasionally to refresh my memory.

In 2012, I was accepted to attend the CERET Train the Trainer Academy funded by MATC’s NSF grant. I really liked the setup. The instructors are knowledgeable and know how to engage an audience of mixed backgrounds. Like last time I was here, I learned a lot, and the instructors pushed us to make sure everyone had an opportunity to do things. I had never wired a junction box, so I was challenged to do that many times. I also never torqued anything, but the instructors made me try it out. The instructors are all very happy to answer our questions and are super patient with a wide range of backgrounds.

This training really complements what I’ve learned through Penn State’s program and through the use of their GridSTAR facility with my class. I’m very grateful to have had these opportunities in order to grow our solar program at the College.”

The CERET Program will be entering into its final year of NSF funding in 2015. Interested schools and instructors should contact Ken Walz ([email protected]) at MATC for additional information. Application materials for the 2015 Summer PV Academy will be available in January, and can be downloaded from

2014 Advanced Solar Electric Academy Institutions

Madison Area Technical College |SITN Midwest RTP
College of Menominee Nation, WI |SITN Midwest RTP
New River Community College, VI |SITN Southern Mid-Atlantic RTP
Heartland Community College, IL |SITN Midwest RTP
Delaware Technical Community College |SITN Northern Mid-Atlantic RTP 
University of Arizona |SITN  
Lakeshore Technical College, WI |SITN  
Gateway Technical College, WI |SITN  
Virginia’s Community Colleges
Technical College of the Low Country
Maine Maritime Academy
Crownpoint Institute of Technology, NM
Southern Maine Community College
Guam Community College
Stockbridge High School, MI
Maple Grove Senior High, MN
Prentice High School, WI
Warren Technical High School, CO
Romeo High School/ Engineering and Tech Center
Mequon-Thiensville High School, WI
Southwest High School, WI