Solar Photovoltaic Certificate of Achievement - NABCEP PV Exam Prep

Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake Community College, through the Green Academy a part of the Division of Continuing Education, has made a commitment to help prepare Utah’s workforce for a bright future in renewable energy technologies and energy conservation.

Our Solar Program certificate courses instruct students in basic electrical theory, learning the major components of a PV system and all the way up to the design and installation of large array PV systems. Students earning this non-credit certificate will have completed the requisite training hours to qualify for taking the following NABCEP recognition or certification exams.

Program Description

The Photovoltaic (PV) Certificate awarded by SLCC acknowledges that students in the program successfully completed a series of courses designed to prepare students to work with Photovoltaic systems.

Students who wish to become certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), either through the Entry Level Exam, PV Technical Sales or PV Installation Professional, are required to participate in a formal education program. SLCC courses satisfy those requirements. In addition, students who want to become licensed to install PV systems in Utah must satisfy the requirements established by the Utah Department of Occupational Licensing (DOPL). NABCEP certification is one of the requirements Installers need to have to apply for a license In Utah. In addition, many residential customers, businesses entities and government agencies throughout the United States require PV Contractors to be licensed by DOPL.

Program Attributes

The SLCC Solar Program is now offered mostly through our on-line learning management system, CANVAS. Each of the courses has in-person lab sessions or activities throughout the course that allow students face to face interaction with the instructor and fellow students. These labs are also for content review to check understanding and/or hand-on activities for experiential learning opportunities.

In addition, students have the experience of training in the only Solar Training Yard in Utah. Learning Labs are provided for multiple system types including various roof structure mountings, pole mountings and both grid-tied and off-grid systems.

“Courses in the Green Academy provide students with the knowledge and skills to prepare them for emerging opportunities in green technologies.” “The college has set its sights on providing education and training that equips students with the understanding and skills to perform ethos that will promote a sustainable future and with an ethos of stewardship.” Dave Jones, Marketing Manager at SLCC. (www.utahbusiness.com, Nov. 2013, Sustainable Business Awards)

Case Study Interview

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

SLCC began the Green Academy in Mar. 2009 in response to industry and community workforce development needs for the growing renewable and alternative energy fields. Solar was one of the first topics to be considered. SLCC received feedback from focus groups and other program interest groups that there was a need for training of solar installation and maintenance technicians. There were two courses in the initial offering – Basic Photovoltaic Systems and Advanced Photovoltaic Systems.

After the third offering of these courses, the instructors identified the need to separate the basic electrical knowledge into a pre-requisite course so that the two photovoltaic courses could focus even more time on thorough delivery of content for full comprehension of all course learning objectives. At approximately the same time, an Energy Management AAS degree program was being put together. There was some discussion at that time about including the solar courses with the degree program. It was determined the best course of action would be to get both programs up and running, with review and time to iron out any bugs in the new curriculum.

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

Thankfully, there really were no major obstacles. The Green Academy, Solar and EGMT programs are all part of the Division of Continuing Education at SLCC and leadership, from both the Associate Dean and the Dean, has been present from the beginning. There was a lengthy time needed to complete the application and review process needed, both internally and with the Utah State Board of Regents, for the Energy Management program to be fully approved as an A.A.S. Degree. During this process, additional courses were being created with new curriculum design work. In addition, we wanted to present the solar courses once or twice to ensure we had viable and rigorous enough curriculum to meet student needs.

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.)?

Each of the keys to success listed above played a role. The Associate Dean of the Division of Continuing Education created the Green Academy and has continued to support increasing the offerings of all forms of renewable and alternative energy training and workshops. Making the existing solar courses choices for technical electives of the degree program was part of a planned curriculum/program improvement project. It was suggested by several students who knew about the solar courses and the EGMT program coordinator and Program Advisory Committee (PAC) supported the addition.

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

Once the Energy Management degree program was approved and running, the process wasn’t very long. Paperwork was submitted through the College Curriculum committee to add the Basic Solar Photovoltaic and Advanced Solar Photovoltaic courses to the degree program as technical electives. This was approximately four months duration.

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

This was most definitely a team effort with SLCC. Program Coordinators for both the Solar program and EGMT program discussed the logic of adding these courses, and with support from Division leadership, it was agreed to move forward. We also received approval and support from the EGMT PAC, who felt offering solar as an option for students was an excellent addition.

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 primary assistance received was in the form of equipment funding, which was utilized to purchase some of the final elements used in the completion of the Solar Training Yard. We are lucky to have had much of the major components donated by various industry organizations with the Salt Lake valley. SLCC has the first and only solar yard in the state of Utah.

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?

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?

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

Yes

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?

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)?

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

The Division of Continuing Education operates on ‘self-funding’ rather than receiving state-support dollars.  In addition, a small amount of funding from a different Department of Energy grant was able to be utilized to continue curriculum being revised for on-line presentation.  This was specific to the energy management degree program.

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

Course Listings

These three courses comprise the Solar Photovoltaic Systems Certificate of Achievement

CEAE 0100 – Basic Electrical Theory for Renewable Energy, 45 hours (3 credit hour equivalent)

This course is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of electricity and an introduction to the National Electric Code pertaining to the renewable energy fields.  Through on-line instruction and hands-on learning, students will learn circuit calculations pertaining to watts, volts, current and resistance, how to properly and safely use a multi-meter, know about safety hazards and various OSHA procedures, and understand basic electronic devices such as diodes, rectifiers and transistors.

CEAE 0200 – Basic Photovoltaic Systems, 45 hours (3 credit hour equivalent)

This course will introduce basic principles of utility interactive PV system design.  Through on-line instruction and hands-on learning, students will gain knowledge to conduct site evaluations, prepare electrical and mechanical design, and select appropriate components such as modules, inverters, racking and wire types, all in accordance with local municipalities and the 2011 NEC code.

CEAE 0300 – Advanced Photovoltaic Systems, 45 hours, (3 credit hour equivalent)

Upon successful completion of coursework, students will be able to safely work with PV systems, conduct site assessments, perform system checkouts and inspections, and design, install, maintain and troubleshoot commercial and off-grid photovoltaic, battery based and hybrid systems.  Through online coursework and extensive hands-on activities in our state-of-the-art Solar Training Yard, students will gain real world knowledge and experience.

The following are stand-along, elective courses offered:

CEAE 0500 – NABCEP PV Certification Exam Prep, 16 hours, (1 credit hour equivalent)

NEC 2011 Solar Photovoltaic (will be updated in 2014 to reflect the changes coming in the 2014 NEC)

 

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