The Austin Community College District joined government, industry, and workforce development leaders at the Riverside Campus Wednesday, March 4, to dedicate a solar energy system that will increase access to renewable energy job training.
The solar energy system was funded through the DOE’s Solar America City award, presented to the City of Austin in 2007.
“ACC’s growing renewable energy program is a timely response to the energy and global warming challenges facing us all,” says Dr. Stephen B. Kinslow, president/CEO of ACC. “As Central Texas positions itself to become a leader in renewable energy, ACC serves a unique role by developing the programs that will train hundreds of workers for the future.”
ACC partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy and Austin Energy to install 2.4-kilowatt photovoltaic systems––each featuring a solar array and GridPoint’s smart grid technology––to serve as teaching tools at two campuses, Rio Grande and Riverside.
The dedication included a variety of speakers and demonstrations. Renewable energy students conducted a simulated rooftop solar panel installation demonstration and showcased the power of solar energy and by powering a boom box with a solar power generator.
With community partners, ACC assists local industries by developing programs in high demand careers ––training registered nurses and healthcare professionals to work in area hospitals, video game developers, auto repair specialists, and now renewable energy technicians.
Some 400 individuals have enrolled in ACC’s renewable energy program, which is in its third year. ACC also offers the only NABCEP-certified solar power installer classes in the region.
“We are very excited about what we have created here,” Kinslow says.
The development of Austin Community College’s renewable energy programs (both college credit and continuing education) has been made possible in part by funding from Workforce Solutions – Capital Area, the City of Austin’s Austin Energy Solar for Schools program, and the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts’ State Energy Conservation Office (SECO).
ACC started renewable energy training in cooperation with Austin Energy, the publicly owned utility that serves the majority of customers in the Austin metropolitan area. Austin Energy is working aggressively to convert a greater percentage of its power generation to solar and other renewable energies. One of the critical issues for Austin Energy and others in the energy industry is the need for skilled technicians.
“These training programs are critical to Austin’s goal of growing our renewable energy portfolio,” says Austin Energy General Manager Roger Duncan. “Not only do they provide the technicians needed today but will establish a talent base that can help set the stage for local renewables manufacturing.”
The U.S. Department of Energy is also working with local entities to increase the shift to cleaner, renewable energy sources.
According to Tom Kimbis, director of the Solar America Cities program, “What we are witnessing in Austin is the combination of government, industry, and education working in concert to remove the barriers to solar adoption. It’s these partnerships that will drive the highly skilled, renewable energy workforce of tomorrow. We’re pleased the Department of Energy’s selection of Austin as a Solar America City, and its funding, have resulted in such tangible results within such a short time period and look forward to ongoing work in the city.”
The ACC solar energy systems are a leap beyond previous education installations because of GridPoint’s software platform, which allows utilities to manage energy to increase efficiency, avoid power outages, and integrate renewable energy.
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