Associate of Applied Science Degree in Power Generation and Alternative Energy

St Philip’s College, San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio has set a renewable goal of 20% by 2020. This program was launched to meet the local industry demands and growing workforce needs by Dennis McDonaugh who was the Department Chair for Electronics Information which is now Applied Electrical and Mechanical Technology. He presented his plan to the college in 2008 and partnered with an industry recognized training organization ADVEN in early 2009. ADVEN brought their solar training course to the campus training local contractors, code officials, and campus instructors. With the training support along with state funding for lab equipment and an available state curriculum, he was able to launch the program in 2009. In 2010 Daniel Sherry who is interviewed here, was hired as Program Director. Under Daniel’s leadership, the program now has a state of the art lab facility and is growing to meet industry demands.

Program Description

The Power Generation and Alternative Energy program provides students with skills and knowledge required to work in the electrical power generation industry. Students are introduced to conventional coal and natural gas powered generation as well as renewable technologies such as wind and solar power. Topics of instruction include DC/AC circuits, solid state devices, electromechanical fundamentals, power generation fundamentals, wind technology, solar technology, and robotic fundamentals. Students complete an internship at the end of the program. The program is designed to meet various career goals by offering foundational courses, specific trade technical courses, applied hands on skills, and field experience related to the selected focus of the student. It is planned to have solar specific skills added into an Associates Degree and Certification in Electrical Trades and HVAC as well as Power Generation.

Program Attributes

This program provides a specific focus on the power generation industry including jobs associated with power plants, manufacturing, and construction.

Case Study Interview

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

I decided many years ago, when I was still completing my associates degree, that I wanted to be an instructor. At that time I didn’t realize where that road would lead. I also grew to love working in industry as an electrician and as an electrical project engineer. I came to St. Philip’s college with 14 years of electrical experience and a desire to teach and share with others so that they could become productive members of society and earn a good wage. As the Power Generation & Alternative Energy Program Director I was provided the opportunity to broaden my electrical experience by coupling my past electrical and teaching experience with Solar PV and alternative energy. Producing power using Solar PV was a new application for me but it was a fairly seamless transition in applying my past electrical and teaching experience into learning about Solar PV and producing curriculum for the program.

I am a life-long learner and I continue to expand my knowledge base related to Solar PV, other alternative energy sources, and energy efficiency, and I have found that a passion has grown within me. This passion is somewhat different from the passion of teaching and sharing with others so that they can be productive and earn a good wage. The passion I have for Solar PV, alternative energy, and energy efficiency expands to not only developing students but also it’s about educating our students and the community about the benefits of energy efficiency, being ecologically responsible, and finding alternative methods to do what we need to do.

This has become a passion with a purpose that expands beyond my position and job at the college. Just ask me for my opinion or thoughts about energy efficiency, Solar PV, alternative energy, or any other related topic and you will see that my passion has transformed me. I have been transformed to where I now have a passion to not only teach, but to share so that all others can learn about good and responsible choices related to our environment and our ecological future.

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

A major obstacle has been building a strong advisory board that will attend the meetings and give good feedback for the program. It has been hard to keep the advisory board engaged. The advisory board has representatives from small companies from the early days of industry development in San Antonio. The plan is to revive the advisory board with strongly established companies from a mix of utility representatives, manufacturing, residential, and commercial contracting companies.

Another obstacle has been promoting the program and reaching prospective students. We have learned to go to potential students and listen to what they want in the program. We learned that it is better to have younger people communicate with the younger prospective students. We have become very active in the solar community and stem related events to find the students. We now have CPS Energy, Nexelon for solar manufacturing, Toyota, and the residential and commercial local contractors who have demand for employees and this message can be communicated to prospective students.

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.)?

One primary key to success has been involvement with the SITN. The support, training, and interaction with the South Central Region and communication with other regional campuses have stimulated ideas for the program. It has also been helpful to receive guidance to build curriculum around the NABCEP task analysis and best industry standards, and to receive information from the IREC website. Another key to success has been receiving guidance from the local electrical code officials to develop curriculum based on local code requirements. We learned from the Advisory Board to look at the local need for building out the program. It was suggested to take out the fuel cell program, have less emphasis on the wind program, and a have a stronger emphasis on solar which is locally supported.

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

In 2008 it was presented to the curriculum committee, approved in spring of 2009, and implemented in the fall of 2009. Implementation was expedited because of an existing state approved curriculum WECM, Workforce Education Course Manual initiated by another state campus, Texas State Technical College, Waco.

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 primarily a three person effort which was started by Dennis McDonaugh and James (Pete) Cliburn, Curriculum Analyst. Dennis and Pete worked together to develop the initial program structure and course sequencing. I worked with Dennis and Pete on the final stages of the program implementation and my primary focus was on writing the technical curriculum, building business partnerships, and teaching the related courses.

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 training that we received for our faculty was very beneficial for some and crucial for others. The grant that we have been participating in with Houston Community College (HCC) has provide an offset to some of the expenses for getting our faculty trained. Support, training, sharing of best practices and ideas, as well as the communication and interaction with the network of campuses associated with SITN has been a great benefit.

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?

To have more advanced courses to help prepare for certification, learn more about solar design, structural analysis, more in-depth code analysis, and firefighter and code official training information.

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?

With College approval.

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

With College approval.

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 – my contact info is:

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)?

Yes. Our program prepares students for the utility industry to be linemen, wind technicians, solar technicians, electronics technicians, and mechanical technicians. We are also expanding our program for research technicians, electricians, and HVAC technicians.

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


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

Yes: There was approximately $2M from a DOE/SECO grant used for lab equipment and curriculum, and the South Central SITN funding for training and curriculum development.

Course Listings

Semester I Lecture Lab External Contact Credit
MATH (20) Core 3 0 0 48 3
CETT 1409 DC-AC Circuits (Flex 1) 4 1 0 80 4
CETT 1429 Solid State Devices (Flex 2) 4 1 0 80 4
ELMT 1305 Basic Fluid Power 2 4 0 98 3
CNBT 1301 Introduction to Construction Industry 3 1 0 64 3
Semester 2
ENGL 1301 Composition I 3 0 0 48 3
RBTC 1347 Electromechanical Devices 3 1 0 64 3
WIND 1300 Introduction to Wind Energy 3 0 0 48 3
INTC 1357 AC/DC Motor Control 2 4 0 96 3
RBTC 1305 Robotics Fundamentals 3 1 0 64 3
Semester 3
CETT 1325 Digital Fundamentals 3 1 0 64 3
PHYS 1305 Introduction to Physics Lecture 3 0 0 48 3
Semester 4
PHIL 2306 Introduction to Ethics 3 0 0 48 3
ELMT 2322 Photovoltaic Technical sales 3 1 0 64 3
ELMT 2351 Power Generation Fundamentals 3 1 0 64 3
WIND 2359 Wind Power Delivery Systems 3 1 0 64 3
Semester 5
ECON 1301 Introduction to Econommics 3 0 0 48 3
EECT 2266 – Practicum (or field experience) – Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering Technology/Technician 0 0 16 256 2
WIND 2355 Wind Turbine Troubleshooting & Repair 3 2 0 80 3
ELMT 2353 Power GenerationTroubleshooting & Repair 3 1 0 64 3
ELMT 1302 Solar Photovoltaic Systems 3 1 0 64 3
 TOTAL  60 21 16 1554 64
Total Degree Plan hours (above)



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