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Growing at a rate 17 times faster than the overall economy, the solar industry is, well, hot. (We had to say it!) According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Census, 2016 was the fourth consecutive year in which employment in the industry grew. In the past year, Maryland added more than 1,100 solar jobs, a 27 percent increase.

“Solar is growing—and rapidly,” says Ed Roberts, dean of Applied Technologies and Gudelsky Institute for Technical Education. And Montgomery College is leading the way in training installers and electricians.

Ed Roberts

Ed Roberts

Program Director and Professor John Phillips starts with the technical aspects of the industry in the Solar PV Design and Installation class. The class is designed so even people with no prior experience in solar or electrical work can prepare for entry-level work.

“You will learn basics of how an electrical system in a building works,” says Phillips. “You will also learn how a solar system works and converts the sun into electricity; how that electricity gets converted into the electricity we have in our buildings to make it useable; and how the solar system interacts with the existing electrical systems.”

Students also get an education in the economics of solar. Phillips says classes cover the costs, financial industry incentives, and “what’s coming down the pike.”

“I have taught things in a class, and by the next semester I am no longer teaching it because it’s obsolete. So, you will learn about the changes in the industry,” Phillips says.

Students who complete the class are eligible to sit for the entry-level industry exam. The College is a registered training provider and exam proctor for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

A new highlight of the program is the outdoor training center. Sitting in the front yard of the Homer S. Gudelsky Institute for Technical Education (GITE), the center features two roofs: a residential or slanted roof, and a flat roof like what is found on many commercial buildings. Students will be able to use the roofs to practice installing different types of solar systems.

The center will include an operational pole-mounted solar photovoltaic system, which will allow students to monitor system performance and take electrical measurements and readings.

A wind turbine and electric vehicle charging system are also in the works.

Dean Ed Roberts says the outdoor lab can also benefit the local community. “We could be a resource for schools; they can bring children out to learn about solar, using the outdoor lab.” Roberts also plans to install signs and displays so pedestrians passing by can get a quick solar education.

In addition to the Solar PV Design and Installation class, the College offers additional courses in solar PV design, solar thermal design, and renewable and sustainable energy technologies. Learn more here.