Kansas community college adds solar to curriculum and campus via RP Construction Services

RPCS cloud county community college

As part of Kansas’ Cloud County Community College’s Solar Energy Technology program, new solar energy courses — spurred by the installation of a new on-campus solar site — will train students for high-tech, high-wage jobs in the exciting, emerging solar industry through innovative teaching and educational partnerships.

The site will service the campus’s energy needs, and will be installed by students enrolled in the program. Historically focusing on wind energy, solar was a natural transition. The program is centered around hands-on training for solar projects, including construction and electrical training for both residential and commercial solar.

“The curriculum blends on-campus, on-line and distance learning, land-lab, and field training opportunities for traditional and non-traditional students,” the college’s website states. This educational program will produce a qualified workforce to serve the emerging solar industry throughout Kansas and the nation.

Founded in 1965, Cloud County Community College is dedicated to delivering high quality, innovative, and accessible educational opportunities and services that prepare a diverse population to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners who can meet the challenges of an ever-changing global community.

Students, faculty, and staff of the college formed an active, volunteer-based group that has named itself the “Go Green Committee,” which has distinguished itself on campus with numerous environmentally-friendly efforts. The college earned a Green Power Partnership, awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a voluntary program encouraging organizations to use green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use.

The 200-kW site features LONGi 340W solar panels on Array Technologies’ DuraTrack HZ v3 single-axis solar trackers. Array’s mounting technology keeps the modules following the sun on its course throughout the day, ensuring up to a 20 to 25% increase in energy production over fixed-tilt systems. RP Construction Services Inc. (RPCS), California-based solar construction contractor and Array Technologies’ trusted partner, helped supply the project

Andrew Clark, Cloud County Community College Renewable Energy Technology instructor and also the project’s construction manager, used his experience as a local solar installer to help students with the installation process and guide them in overcoming challenges posed by snowy weather.

“It was my dream when I started teaching at Cloud to introduce solar to the program offerings,” says Clark. “Once I found out that was possible, I decided the program needed a solar project, so I imagined a small solar array to get their feet wet. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we were going to be able to secure funding for the project and finish it the very next year. It really has blown my mind all that we were able to accomplish in a short amount of time. I have to thank everyone who was involved; they helped make it possible.”

The program hopes to complete the project in a few weeks, celebrating with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

— Solar Builder magazine

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