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Published 6/3/2005

Owens Community College Harnesses Sun's Energy With First-Ever Student Installed Solar Panel

Joe Peschel poses in front of the College's first-ever solar panel. With the focus on environmental friendliness, Owens Community College is now harnessing the sun's energy to help light a classroom thanks to 10 Workforce and Community Services students. As part of their Photovoltaic Training Program instruction, the students installed the College's first-ever solar panel behind the Center for Development and Training.

"Owens Community College's Photovoltaic Training Program provides students with innovative and cutting edge instruction for careers within the emerging field of environmental technology," said Joe Peschel, Owens coordinator of customized training. "Students participating in the course are learning that solar power is not just a concept, but a reality that will help create a sustainable energy future."

According to Peschel, the student-installed solar panel is just the first of many more modules slated for construction on the Toledo-area Campus as future classes complete the Photovoltaic Training Program. "The additional solar panels will allow the College to distribute even more renewable energy throughout the Center for Development and Training building," he stated.

Twenty modules comprise one solar panel. Photovoltaic cells within each panel absorb the sun's rays, creating a current of power that is directed to a substation and eventually into electricity for the building. One solar panel can generate up to 1,000 watts of power.

"Solar energy is a great alternative source to conventional power," said John Witte, Owens adjunct faculty member for the Photovoltaic Training Program, and co-partner of Advanced Distributed Generation LLC, a company that oversees the installation of solar panels. "Renewable energy is the wave of the future and society's demands for solar panel installation is on the rise. Innovative academic curriculum such as the College's Photovoltaic Training Program exposes students to an exciting industry and the growing career field as photovoltaic installers and integrators."

Individuals attending Owens' five-day apprentice training program receive instruction within the areas of electricity and photovoltaic systems and theory. Course content includes system sizing and construction, codes and standards, battery safety, interconnection safety, troubleshooting, and maintenance. Installation practices related to project management, adapting mechanical and electrical design, and system commissioning are also highlighted. The hands-on course concludes with the design and installation of a grid-tied photovoltaic system.

For Owens student Gregory Benton, the Photovoltaic Training Program has been an eye opening experience. "Solar energy is great alternative energy source for our environment," said the Swanton resident, who has career aspirations of operating his own solar energy business. "This course has inspired me to want to learn even more about renewable energy."

Students successfully completing the Photovoltaic Training Program and additional work experience qualify to take the national test and receive certification as a system integrator.

Owens' Workforce and Community Services is dedicated to providing customer-driven workforce development and job training. The learning-centered approach focuses on developing and enhancing professional skills to meet the needs of the community, customizing training in the areas of computer applications, allied health education, apprenticeship-related training and skilled trades.

Organizations donating the solar panels as part of Owens' Photovoltaic Training Program were First Solar and American Electric Power (through the Foundation for Environmental Education), while Vanner Inc. provided the inverter used to convert DC voltage, produced by the panels, to AC voltage.

The next Photovoltaic Training Program course offering is slated to occur in March 2006. For more information about the program, call (567) 661-7163 or 1-800-GO-OWENS, Ext. 7163.

Owens Community College is one of the fastest-growing higher educational institutions in Ohio. On the Toledo-area and Findlay-area campuses, Owens serves more than 45,000 credit and non-credit students, making it the number one choice for new college students. Owens is committed to providing small classes, personal attention and unmatched affordability. Owens Community College offers over 130 program areas in Agriculture, Business, Fine and Performing Arts, Health, Public Service, Skilled Trades, and Industrial and Engineering Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor's degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university.


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