Solar content integration is simply the process of determining ways to infuse needed solar content into education and training programs for certain occupations that are closely related to solar occupations. Supplemental solar topics can be integrated into existing courses, or entirely new courses can be integrated into existing programs.

Examples of this are discussed in the Solar Energy Education and Training Best Practices document on Exemplary Solar Programs. For the five-year electrical construction trades apprenticeship program, from 40 to more than 100 instructional hours of PV design and installation have been integrated as advanced course material at most IBEW training centers. Core requirements for training electricians have remained the same, but now apprentices can add PV installation to their marketable skills.

Hudson Valley Community College took required and elective courses from their two-year Electrical Construction and Maintenance Program—including two new PV courses covering theory, design, installation, and maintenance—to create a five-course Photovoltaic Installation Certificate Program (with 420 instructional hours). The two new PV courses can also be taken as part of their existing Associate in Occupational Studies (A.O.S.) two-year degree program.

Diablo Valley College created four new solar courses, combined them with four existing courses that are part of their two-year Associate in Science (A.S.) Degree program in Energy Systems, and created two new certificate programs: Energy Systems—Photovoltaics (nine courses) and Energy Systems—Solar Thermal (eight courses).

Lane Community College created a Renewable Energy Technician (RET) Option as part of its two-year Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) Degree program for energy management technicians. The first year of coursework is identical for both the Energy Management Technician (EMT) program and the Renewable Energy Technician option. Renewable energy, PV, and solar thermal courses have been integrated into the second year to provide an attractive option for the A.A.S. degree program.

Figure 1 shows both the total number of instructional hours and hours of solar-specific content that was integrated into existing programs. Students who successfully complete these programs should be able to make an immediate positive contribution to their solar employer and have attained additional knowledge and skills that are transferrable to non-solar occupations.

Fig 1. Hours of solar-specific content integrated into six existing programs

Opportunities for integrating solar content are shown in Figure 2 below.

Fig 2 Opportunities for integrating solar content

In Figure 2, the left column applies to a five-year construction trade apprenticeship program, such as that used by the IBEW to train electricians. Approximately 70 percent of the curriculum involves required core training, while the remaining 30 percent (or approximately 270 hours) is applied to advanced-training options. It is within these advanced-training options that solar PV content can be integrated. As indicated above, the amount of instruction dedicated to PV varies from a minimum of about 40 hours to more than 100 hours. As PV technology, markets, and types of applications expand, the number of instructional hours devoted to PV may increase as well.

The middle column in Figure 2 shows opportunities for integrating solar courses into existing multi-course certificate programs. For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) continues to sponsor numerous Centers of Excellence through its Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. Educational institutions, primarily community colleges and their industrial partners that are part of these centers, focus on relevant topics such as advanced manufacturing technology, energy and environmental technologies, electronics, micro- and nanotechnologies, engineering technology, construction technology, and industrial technology. As a result, there are many multi-course certificate programs that develop knowledge and skills that are closely related to the needs of the solar industry. Appropriately integrating one or more solar courses into existing certificate programs both enhances them and makes students more marketable in pursuing job opportunities.

The right column in Figure 2 shows the wealth of opportunities for positively affecting both two- and four-year degree programs by simply adding one or more solar courses or projects to the curriculum. This can be done with vocational, technology, engineering, business, and other professional degree programs. The Lane Community College option, which leads to an A.A.S. degree for Renewable Energy Technicians (RETs), is a notable example. In addition, incorporating one or more solar courses and/or capstone solar design projects into Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree programs may interest graduating engineers in a career in solar energy.

 

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