Certificate in Renewable Energy

Central Carolina Community College, 764 West St., Pittsboro, North Carolina 27312

Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) is located in Pittsboro, North Carolina in the heart of Chatham County.  The CCCC Pittsboro campus is less than an hour from Research Triangle Park and Duke University, NC State University, and UNC-Chapel Hill. Pittsboro is the county seat of Chatham County and has a population of less than 4,000 people. The community is a haven for environmentally consciousness and renewable energy. Considering this environment it is perhaps no surprise that CCCC’s sustainability technologies program is considered a leader not only in the state but in the nation. Within the sustainability technologies program CCCC offers a sought after Certificate in Renewable Energy. Certainly some of the graduates of this program have helped propel North Carolina to its third place ranking of solar capacity installed in 2013.

Program Description

The Renewable Energy certificate is designed to prepare individuals for employment in renewable energy, or related industries, where key emphasis is placed on energy production along with sustainable technologies.

Coursework includes an introduction to sustainability as well as trade specific classes in renewable energy. Some courses include testing options for industry recognized certificates.

Graduates should qualify for positions within the renewable energy, construction, or environmental industries. Employment opportunities exist in both the government and private industry sectors where graduates may function as PV, solar thermal or biofuels technicians.

The Certificate in Renewable Energy program is two semesters in length.

Program Attributes

The Renewable Energy Certificate is a component of a stackable credential for the Sustainable Technologies Program at CCCC.

CCCC offers an Associate Degree in Sustainability Technologies that has multiple entry and exit points by incorporating certificate options under the Associate degree credential.  Three certificates; Renewable Energy, Green Building, and Sustainability, are offered as options for students not yet able or ready to commit to an entire degree program.  However if a student does want to progress from a certificate program to a degree program all coursework in the certificate counts toward the degree.  If a student completes all three certificate programs, plus 15 hours of additional general education coursework, they will have completed the degree program.  This design also allows for students who originally thought they would like to pursue a degree, but for whatever reason are not able, to have the ability to still obtain a certificate and thus successfully complete a program of study.

Case Study Interview

1. What inspired you to spearhead the effort to integrate solar content into your courses, curriculum, or programs?

Interview of Andrew McMahan

We have grown our solar training program from a very small endeavor over the course of many years, so it’s been more of a natural progression than a “spearhead” for our college.  But the original push came at the request of our community.

2. What major obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

Fortunately there haven’t been any major obstacles other than the typical growing pains of a college curriculum.

3. What were the keys to successfully achieving solar content integration (e.g., support of a person or persons; part of a planned curriculum improvement project; recommendations from industry or an advisory board; etc.)?

Support from the college administration and support from industry have been the two biggest keys.

4. How long did the process take from initial concept presentation or proposal to implementation?

We began offering solar related courses through our continuing education department before moving to “for credit” courses, so the process took a few years, but that had been the plan from the beginning.

5. Was this primarily a one-person effort, or did you have one or more partners who shared a significant portion of the workload?

Our college is fortunate to have multiple people working on renewable energy and sustainability training.

6. What products or services from your Regional Training Provider (RTP) and the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) were most useful to you in achieving solar content integration at your institution?

The network of other instructors has been useful.

7. Are there other products or services that you would suggest for the RTPs and/or the SITN to offer that would be helpful in the process of implementing solar content integration?

Ideas and materials for meaningful hands-on activities (other than just small system installs) that are appropriate for technician level courses would be great. – including equipment lists (from state approved vendors), lab report templates, and instructional materials, etc .

I.E. system troubleshooting labs, I-V curve labs, site assessment labs, digital multi-meter labs, etc.

8. Would you be willing to share course proposals, curriculum improvement proposals, and/or curriculum outlines for the courses, curriculum, and programs that you used as part of the solar content integration process?

Sure, however I would need to run this by my college’s administration prior to making any firm commitment.

9. If yes, would you agree to have these materials available on the IREC web site (with links from the RTP web sites)?

See previous response.

10. Would you be willing to be listed as a contact person on the IREC web site to share your solar content integration experience with other interested parties?

Maybe.  Depends on the time commitment this would require.

11. Would you be willing and able to specify all occupations for which the training that you offer applies (e.g., this program trains students for these occupations/jobs)?

In general…

Solar Technicians

Solar Heating Technicians

Green Building Technicians

Bioenergy Technicians

12. Was specific funding appropriated for solar content integration into related course, curriculum, and/or program development?

No, just regular curriculum funds.

13. If special funding was available, would you be willing to share the amount of funding on the IREC web site?


Course Listings

Required Courses Hours: Class  / Lab  / Credit
ALT 110 Biofuels I 3 0 3
ALT 120 Renewable Energy Technology 2 2 3
ELC 111 Intro to Electricity 2 2 3
ELC 220 Photovoltaic System Technology 2 3 3
SST 130 Modeling Renewable Energy 2 2 3
ALT 250 Thermal Systems 2 2 3
13 11 18
Total Semester Hours Credit Required for Certificate 18 Units
Total Instructional Hours 384 Hours


Program Credentials

NABCEP Entry Level Photovoltaic Exam (ALT 220)

NABCEP Entry Level Solar Heating Exam (ALT 250)



Transfer Options and Articulation Agreements (e.g., 2+2, 2+2+2 programs)

While no formal articulation agreements have been created, CCCC has worked with a number of 4-year schools to facilitate student transfer.


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