Demand growing for solar training

An uptick in photovoltaic projects in northern Nevada has resulted in an increase in demand for worker training provided by the Sierra Nevada Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors and Truckee Meadows Community College.

Photovoltaic installers must be certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, says Michelle Daughtery, ABC vice president. Since February ABC has graduated 57 photovoltaic installers and has another 18 in training.

ABC offers 12-, 24- and 48-hour training classes depending on certification requirements.

"We focus on teaching not only the OSHA requirements, but actually give hands-on training and give them the information they need to work as a photovoltaic tech," Daugherty says. "This is different technology than they've done before, and there is a lot of training."

ABC has been filling its training classes and has a waiting list, she adds. Training prepares workers to pass an OSHA-administered test on photovoltaic installation.

Northern Nevada companies that have trained workers include United Construction, Lepori Construction, Pavers Plus, Alpine Roofing and A-1 Steel companies that are working on solar projects in various capacities. ABC has partnered with the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation and Nevada JobConnect to help train construction workers.

Truckee Meadows Community College also offers training classes for construction workers to ramp up their skills in the field of renewable energy. In 2008 the college developed new courses that introduce students to wind and geothermal energy, as well as solar and energy efficiency.

The college has a working solar photovoltaic system at its IGT Applied Technologies Center on Edison Way in Reno that's used as a demonstration lab. TMCC plans to install a wind turbine and construct a large renewable energy classroom/laboratory to provide students with hands-on training with renewable technologies. NV Energy has provided funding for the projects.

Currently more than 25 TMCC students are pursuing degrees that emphasize renewable energy, and another 100 have registered for individual renewable energy courses, says Kyle Dalpe, TMCC public information officer.

Enrollment in TMCC's Introduction to Solar Energy course increased 65 percent from Fall 2009 to the Spring 2010 semester.

The college also has obtained additional grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy to develop additional courses, including photovoltaic installer, solar heating and cooling installer, wind turbine maintenance, geothermal plant technician, and energy efficiency auditors.


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