Associate in Applied Science Degree – Electrical Technology (with Renewable Energy Specialilzation)

Kankakee Community College, 100 College Drive, Kankakee, IL 60901

While recognizing the impending need for a solar workforce and solar training capacity, KCC acknowledges that solar jobs do not yet exist, in the Midwest, in numbers that can sustain an independent, community college-based, solar-training program.  By integrating solar training into its Electrical Technology AAS degree, KCC is able to maintain a robust electrical training program — providing its students with traditional electrical technician skills — while offering specialized renewable energy training as one of four distinct specialization tracks.  This gives stability and sustainability to its overall Electrical Technology Program while growing its solar training efforts to meet the needs of an evolving solar market.

Program Description

The Electrical Technology program prepares students to construct, install, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair electrical circuits and systems. Basic knowledge, fundamental skills and industry standards will be emphasized as students learn to work in the field of electrical technology.

All degree-seeking students in this program take the same common core of freshman-level courses; however, four “focus tracks” are offered for students to develop skills in specific areas of interest. The four specialization tracks are: Industrial Electrical Technology, Industrial Instrumentation and Process Control, Industrial Machinery Maintenance, and Renewable Energy Technology.

Students are required to purchase a minimum set of components and/or tools in some courses. Electrical Technology graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in nearly any electrical venue, or to enter electrical technology training programs at selected, four-year colleges and universities with junior status.

Program Attributes

As described by KCC’s Electrical Technology Program Coordinator, Tim Wilhelm, “Our photovoltaic course is aligned with the objectives and competencies of the MREA’s ANSI/IREC-accredited Solar Site Assessment certificate; and, with NABCEP’s Photovoltaic Entry-Level exam.  These third-party exams and certificates add an effective means to assess our training efforts while giving credibility to our program and to the students who graduate from the program.

“We are proud to inform our students that KCC is the only institution in Illinois, and one of only three in the central region of the USA, with an IREC-accredited photovoltaic training program, accompanying the MREA is Wisconsin and Riverland Community College in Minnesota.  In addition, I’m personally proud to be an IREC-certified Master Trainer for solar-PV and am honored to have been selected as an IREC 2013 Clean Energy Trainer of the Year, along with Clay Sterling of the MREA.

“Our photovoltaic course has several prerequisite courses from within our Electrical Technology Program:  Fundamentals of Electricity; National Electrical Code and Wiring Methods; and, Survey of Renewable Energy Technology.  In order to fulfill program requirements, students also complete our Industrial Safety course in which they earn their OSHA-10 certificate, along with certificates for American Red Cross First Aid and CPR.”

In addition, as the program’s primary solar instructor, Wilhelm is a NABCEP-certified Photovoltaic Installation Professional; and, KCC is a NABCEP-approved PV Entry-Level Training Provider and testing site.

With a focus on Veterans and under-served populations, and in partnership with Illinois State University (ISU) and the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN), KCC is also engaged with area high schools and jr. high schools to embed grade-appropriate, solar education into existing science courses.  Via this outreach effort, KCC is working to build a pipeline from public-school science courses directly to its solar training program.  This effort, dubbed “Solar for Schools,” gives the local public schools solar lesson materials and lab equipment, developed by ISU and funded by IGEN.  KCC plays a mentoring role for the public school administrators, teachers, and students served by the Solar for Schools effort.

In conjunction with its solar training and outreach activities, and in partnership with the MREA, KCC is actively working to develop the local solar market.  This effort follows the MREA’s “Power Pack” model, including the presentation of solar “Power Hours” – free, open-to-the-public, educational sessions about solar technology, its benefits, and its economics.  During Power Hour presentations, the public is introduced to Power Pack team members – U.S. solar hardware manufacturers, local solar installers, local lending institutions, the MREA, and KCC.  In addition, Power Hour attendees are given the opportunity to apply for free solar site assessments, integrating the KCC student requirement to perform mentored, practice site assessments with this solar market-development effort.

This link is to an article and photos about a recent KCC Solar Power Hour:

This link is to a website dedicated to KCC’s solar training program:

This link is to a video shot within KCC’s indoor photovoltaic lab:

Case Study Interview

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

Interview with Tim Wilhelm, Kankakee Community College, Kankakee IL

  1. This is a difficult question to answer in just a few paragraphs.  Inspired?  I had/have multiple sources of inspiration that drove me to, and sustain, the subject-effort of this question:
  • I’ve had an avid interest in solar energy conversion technologies since 1963, instigated by the movie Our Mr. Sun, a Bell Labs film starring Dr. Frank Baxter and Eddie Albert.
  • I’ve been professionally involved in the renewable energy field since the mid-1970s. Participating in the deployment of multiple, successful applications of solar technologies is incredibly rewarding and fuels a self-sustaining, repeating cycle of inspiration and application.
  • The obvious logic and good sense of ideas like “Peak Oil” and “Climate Change” beg for constructive action to shift from a fossil-fuel-based energy paradigm to a solar-based energy paradigm.  I am driven to contribute to this effort.
  • Here is the Midwest the solar market is barely emerging.  Solar jobs are so sparse as to be virtually non-existent.  Our present educational realities do not support the existence of a training or degree program for which jobs don’t exist.  I was personally involved in the shutdown of our Electronics Technology program, resulting from a dearth of jobs and low student enrollment.  This pushed me to conceive a strategy to build robust renewable energy training into our Electrical Technology AAS degree program.  These videos explain our Electrical Technology and how renewable energy training fits into it.

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

The only “major obstacle” I can recall was not initially having a sensible, functional strategy.  I’m sure there were initial budgetary constraints and insufficient institutional support; but all the obstacles were overcome with a successful application to the National Science Foundation’s ATE Program for “Community Colleges New to NSF.”  The effort to craft a worthy grant application to NSF pushed me to develop the strategy necessary to integrate a solar training program into the fabric of an AAS Degree Program in Electrical Technology.  Successfully winning the NSF grant immediately addressed any potential issues related to budget and institutional support.

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.)?

As mentioned in my answer to #2, above, winning a supportive grant award nurtured other elements that influenced the successful effort.  It should be noted; I did not integrate solar content into existing courses.  Rather, I mapped the NABCEP PV Entry-Level competencies against the competencies of our existing courses.  Those courses that already covered any of the NABCEP competencies were made prerequisite courses to a brand new course in Solar-PV Technology.  Assisting with the development of this new course was a great advisory committee consisting of members from PV manufacturing, PV distribution, faculty from Illinois State University’s B.S. Degree Program in Renewable Energy, and a local engineer.

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

It only took a single semester to move from the initial concept proposal to program implementation.

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

I did have intermittent, significant support from several people.  By and large, however, this was a one-person effort.

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?

Our Regional Training Provider, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) has been an invaluable resource.  I’ve participated in workshops and trainings at their site, online course work, and have had full, free access to their training materials.  It has all been of superb quality and incredible value.  Of greatest value, in my opinion, has been the face-to-face training, with hands-on experiences, coupled with the building of constructive personal relationships with other Partnering Institutions being trained by the RTP, and with MREA personnel.

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?

I don’t have any specific suggestions at this time; but I’d be happy to give it some thought and pass on suggestions later.

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?

Yes, I’d be happy to share everything I have in this regard.

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

Yes, again!

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?

Ditto, ditto, yes.

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)?

Referenced to the USDOE’s Solar Career Map (SunShot Initiative), my students will likely be seeking jobs in the mid-level “System Design” and “Installation and Operations” categories, i.e.  Residential PV System Designer, Solar PV Installer, and Solar PV Technician, and related occupations.

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

Yes, two NSF/ATE Project grants.

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

Our first NSF/ATE Project – Project REvamp — was granted under their “Small Grants for Community Colleges new to NSF,” with a 30-month award of $150,000.00.  Our current NSF/ATE project is titled “C4 – Community Colleges Confronting the Conundrum.”  This is a 36-month award of $900,000.00.

Course Listings

KCC Electrical Technology Core Courses (Course Number, Title, and Credit Hours)

Minimum credit hours required for completion – 68

Electrical Technology core courses (7 courses)
Credit hours: 26

ELTR 1024 *- Basic Circuit Analysis (4 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 1034 – Fluid Power (4 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 1064 – Fundamentals of Electricity1 (4 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 1114 *  – Digital Fundamentals (4 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 1402 – Industrial Safety (2 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 2074 *  – DC & AC Rotating Machines (4 cr. hrs.)

DRFT 2114 *  – AutoCAD I (4 cr. hrs.)

General Education (5 courses)
Credit hours: 16

ENGL 1413 *  – Fundamentals of Writing2 (3 cr. hrs.)

BSNS 1603 – Business Communications 2 (3 cr. hrs)

MATH 1123 *  – Technical Mathematics II 3 (3 cr. hrs.)

PSCI 1514 *  – Introduction to Physical Science — Chemistry & Physics (4 cr. hrs.)

SOCY 2513 *  – Sociology  (3 cr. hrs.)

Renewable Energy Track 4 (7 courses)
Credit hours: 26 

ELTR 1044 *  – Semiconductor Electronics (4 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 1174 *  – National Electric Code & Writing Methods (4 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 1223  – Survey of Renewable Energy Technologies (3 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 2314 *  – Intro to Solar-Thermal Technology (4 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 2324 *  – Intro to Small-Wind Energy Tech (4 cr. hrs.)

ELTR 2334 *  – Intro to Solar-Photovoltaic Tech (4 cr. hrs.)

MATH 2113 *  – Technical Mathematics III (3 cr. hrs.)


*Course has prerequisite

Those who have completed ELTR 1014 or both ELTR 1062 and ELTR 1072 will not be required to take ELTR 1064.

For transfer students, a higher level English course may be substituted.

For transfer students, a higher level mathematics course may be substituted.



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