Community college receives U.S. DOE grant for solar energy t
Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) in Fairfield will receive a $2.8 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to train solar energy installers. It was one of only nine other colleges selected to lead a national effort aimed at improving solar energy practices.
Intended to fund the college for five years, the grant will be used to start a certification program at KVCC that will offer instruction on photovoltaic and solar heating and cooling installation. Following a model from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, the goal of the curriculum is to have graduates from the program become the technical instructors for training in their own communities.
"This is huge and it's so important," President of KVCC Barbara Woodlee said. "This is going to give us a chance to work with our colleagues to help deliver training to the business community. It's an exciting partnership and in many ways this will be the first time we have worked together this way. We are absolutely thrilled to be able to coordinate this effort. The clean energy industry is going to be very well served by having access to these training opportunities."
KVCC will also be constructing a mobile laboratory, which it will use to demonstrate the best ways to build and install new solar technology. This will allow KVCC to teach courses off-campus at partnering institutions, including the other six community colleges in Maine, high school technical centers and community colleges in both New Hampshire and Vermont.
"We will be taking new state-of-the-art technology and bringing instructors in solar technicians up to speed across New England," Greg Fletcher, Chair of KVCC's trades and technology department, said. "All kinds of people will be benefiting."
The mobile lab, expected to be complete by next spring or summer, will cost the school around $150,000. The remainder of the program's expenses will fall primarily on training the students.
The college administrators predict that it will cost approximately $2,800 per student, considering the 40-hour minimum required coursework.
KVCC's $2.8 million grant is part of $87 million being provided by the U.S. DOE for solar energy projects and research. Funding was distributed to 47 different projects at universities, electric power utilities, national laboratories and local governments.
"Today's awards are among the many investments made to create new jobs and a clean energy future with solar power," U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a departmental release. "The projects will help accelerate the use of solar energy by residents, businesses and communities, and promote the long-term viability of solar energy by investing in the technologies of the future. I applaud each of these award winners who are vital to moving our country towards a sustainable solar infrastructure."
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was responsible for providing more than half of the $87 million DOE spending. KVCC was the only institution in Maine to receive a grant.
"This is really great news for Maine," Congressman Mike Michaud and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said in a joint press release. "It not only highlights the state's excellent community college system and our leadership in clean energy, but will create good paying jobs that can't be exported."