Texas State College expands solar energy tech program to meet growing industry needs

texas solar

To deploy more solar, more people must be ready and interested in doing so. Within a state with a lot of potential, Texas State Technical College is growing its Solar Energy Technology program and poised to fill an expected growth of jobs in the state. Equipment used for program lectures and labs will be moved throughout the spring semester from an older metal building on Airline Drive to a newer, larger structure up the road next to the Building Construction Technology program’s building. The new building provides more space to teach solar energy design, troubleshooting, solar thermal systems and other classes.

“Having spent several years in the industry recently, I have a detailed understanding of what employers require in their employees,” said Hugh Whitted, a Solar Energy Technology instructor at TSTC. “Using this experience, I have made adjustments to curriculum and labs that allow students to be successful employees.”

TSTC is helping to contribute to the state’s growing solar energy industry. Solar energy technology jobs grew in Texas by more than 30 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to The Solar Foundation’s 2016 National Solar Jobs Census. In 2015, there were 7,030 industry jobs and in 2016, the workforce grew to more than 9,300. This put Texas third in the country in solar energy jobs, followed by California and Massachusetts.

RELATED: PV in schools: Education sector is one of solar’s best opportunities 

Texas had about 21,000 commercial and residential properties using solar panels as of summer 2016, according to the Texas Solar Energy Society. Usage has been seen primarily in parts of Texas that use deregulated energy sources and in the Austin and San Antonio areas, according to information compiled by the state solar energy society.

“Solar is growing in Texas right now,” Whitted said. “With federal rebates and local rebates being offered and a climate that makes solar very productive, many individuals and businesses are adding in solar power.”


There were more than 260,000 solar jobs in the United States in 2016, according to the solar jobs report. Nine percent of the workers were veterans, while 28 percent were women and 17 percent were Hispanic. TSTC offers the Associate of Applied Science degree in Solar Energy Technology. Since 2011, the program has had more than 20 graduates.

— Solar Builder magazine

SunPower constructs 4.8-MW carport on two California campuses

sunpower helix carport

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWR) are constructing a 4.8-megawatt SunPower Helix Carport solar power system at two university parking areas. CSULB will purchase the solar power generated by the system under a power purchase agreement that offers competitive rates, enabling the university to offset approximately 15 percent of campus electrical load with clean, renewable solar power.

The SunPower Helix platform is a fully-integrated solar solution for commercial customers. Available for installation as a carport, on the roof, or as a ground-mounted technology, Helix is a pre-engineered, modular solution designed to deliver more energy and greater reliability than conventional solar products. The elegant design of the Helix carport can also enhance the aesthetics on campus. Since launching the product late last year, SunPower has contracted a total of 40 megawatts of Helix Carport to deliver to customers in the commercial and public sectors.

In addition to generating power, the solar carports at CSULB will provide to the campus community needed shade and electric vehicle chargers with the capacity to charge 50 cars. All of the systems are expected to be operational by the end of next year. CSULB will own the renewable energy credits associated with the systems.

RELATED: Solar carports will spread across the country as costs decline 

SunPower estimates that one year of solar energy produced by the CSULB system, once it is operational, could power more than 2,200 electric vehicles for 30 years. According to estimates provided by the Solar Energy Industries Association, the annual power production of the system will be equivalent to the power required by 1,200 average California homes.

CSULB has three operating solar power systems on campus today, but this new SunPower project will be the largest solar power system on campus and within the 23 campus CSU system to date.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, the university’s Sustainability Task Force oversees a range of activities to reduce campus environmental impact, including energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable food service, and waste reduction and recycling.

— Solar Builder magazine

Sunpreme Bifacial PV panels now atop UC Berkeley’s Jacobs Hall

Jacobs Hall is the brand new home for University of California, Berkeley’s Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation in the College of Engineering. The building was built to embody the values of the institute itself: “a place to explore, a place to connect and a place to learn design innovation by doing design innovation.” Now, it has an advanced bifacial solar PV solar system, too. The cutting edge solar system with Sunpreme Bifacial PV panels will do more than just help the Institute control its electricity bills — it will provide environmental benefit of having PV solar installed and is on track to receive one of the highest levels of LEED Certification for green building.

Sunpreme bifacial panels

The solar system is roof-top mounted, commissioned in Q1 2016, and is the largest solar array on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Sunpreme offers advanced bifacial technology that allows PV Panels to absorb light from both sides, increasing energy yield (kWh per kWp) further, and ideal for extreme and challenging environmental conditions. These double glass GxB310, 60 Cell panels have 21.5 percent efficient cells are designed for reliability – frameless that need no grounding, have a low thermal coefficient of -0.28 percent/C and high sensitivity to low lights.

“We chose Sunpreme Bifacial PV Panels for their double glass technical solution, proven product relia-bility and outstanding aesthetics. Sunpreme has demonstrated that it is a reliable partner with innova-tive and high quality products, and professional customer support,” said Andrew Birch, Sungevity’s Chief Executive Officer.

RELATED: REC Solar, Sungevity form strategic partnership 

“We at Sunpreme are proud to partner with Sungevity and University of California, Berkeley in a trend-setting capacity for the solar market in sophisticated urban settings. We are spearheading the trans-formation of PV solar installations from purely utilitarian function to artistic roof-top designs that add beauty to the function. Our symmetrical double glass panels are visually appealing even from the un-derside looking up, while delivering PV power at the highest levels by empowering the sun from all directions,” said Ashok K. Sinha, Chairman and CEO of Sunpreme. “We have designed-in reliability that lasts and overlaid upon this foundation, bench-mark Performance of our proprietary thin-film Hybrid Cell Technology, and competitive Cost thanks to an intelligent lean manufacturing process that lever-ages the Moore’s Law as previously learnt by the LCD flat panel display industry,” added Sinha.

“We are privileged to have partnered with Sungevity in making Sunpreme Advanced Bifacial PV Panels available to prestigious University of California, Berkeley’s Jacobs Hall. We congratulate their commit-ment to high quality standards and the milestone achieved. It is very rewarding to enable significant operational savings while inspiring students with the great potential solar power,” said Surinder S. Bedi, Executive Vice President for Global Quality & Reliability, System Products and Market Develop-ment at Sunpreme. “Our clients depend on cutting edge technology and financial returns for 30 years or more. By focusing on advanced and smart technologies we are able to collaborate and demonstrate outstanding system performance, robust product reliability, and lifetime yields with one of the best warranties in the industry. We look forward in continuing to provide best-in-class customer experi-ence,” added Bedi.

More about Sungevity and Sunpreme

Sungevity is a technology-driven solar energy company focused on scaling solar through its unique partner-based model. Leveraging its proprietary remote solar design technology, Sungevity’s software enables users to get a quote without a site visit and provides prospective customers with visibility to potential savings on their electricity bills. The company continues to grow its partner and customer base and now services 13 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., Sunpreme is a global solar photovoltaic company that designs, develops and manufactures its proprietary HCT which delivers the best cost performance value to clean-tech customers, worldwide. Sunpreme provides the world’s most powerful Bifacial and Smart Panels with STC outputs of 310 W – 500 W based on a patented HCT platform.

— Solar Builder magazine

NYPA partners with state university on PV, battery storage project

The New York Power Authority and the State University of New York at New Paltz announced are partnering to build a cutting-edge, solar energy storage system on campus that will offset the school’s reliance on the grid. The system will provide solar generation and employ a hybrid power converter and backup generator that would supply power in case of an outage at the Elting Gymnasium, which serves as an emergency shelter on campus.

New York Power Authority-001Most of the solar panels for the 217-kW project will be installed on the gym’s roof. The remainder will go on the roof of the nearby Sojourner Truth Library. A battery storage system, located in the gym’s basement, will be supported by the solar arrays, allowing the school to utilize stored solar power during emergencies and times of peak demand for the university.

The Power Authority is implementing the project and providing more than $580,000 in funding. The project is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

“The Power Authority is proud to be a partner on this critically important project,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “The energy generated by these solar panels can be stored for impactful use at times of high electric demand on campus and during an emergency, allowing for increased flexibility and resiliency of the state’s electric grid.”

RELATED: New York utilities, SolarCity propose landmark partnership 

The $1.37 million project is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s BuildSmart NY program, a comprehensive statewide initiative to increase energy efficiency in public buildings. BuildSmart NY is a key component of the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy to build a cleaner, more affordable and resilient energy system that supports the State’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and ensuring that half of all energy used in the state comes from renewable sources by 2030.

“This project builds upon the college’s many ongoing and successful campus sustainability initiatives, including through solar-power generation,” said SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian. “We appreciate greatly both the Governor’s recognition of how SUNY New Paltz aligns well with BuildSmart NY, and the decision to award funds for additional solar panels and a battery storage system.”

RELATED: PV in schools: Education sector is one of solar’s best opportunities 

The project received an additional $271,720 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and $210,000 from Central Hudson Gas & Electric, the local utility. The additional costs will be financed by NYPA and repaid by the college through the expected energy savings.

NYPA is partnering with SUNY schools on other energy-efficiency upgrades that, when completed, will save more than 21,000 MWh of electricity. BuildSmart NY, which was launched in 2012, calls for an increase in energy efficiency in state government buildings by 20 percent by 2020.

Further reading: New York starts construction on first community solar project 

— Solar Builder magazine

Largest behind-the-meter solar plant on a college campus, via SunPower

Representatives from the University of California and SunPower dedicated the university’s newly constructed 16.3-MW (AC) solar power plant. The new plant, which is estimated by UC Davis to generate 14 percent of the campus’ total electricity needs, is the largest solar installation in the UC system and the largest “behind the meter” solar plant on a U.S. college campus off-setting electricity demand. The university expects to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint by nine percent, or 14,000 metric tons, as a result of the system.

SunpowerLocated on a 62-acre site south of Interstate 80, the plant was designed and built by SunPower, which also owns and operates the project and sells the power generated to UC Davis.

“UC Davis has a singular vision for integrating sustainable energy solutions,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “SunPower has been pleased to partner with the university, first on the landmark zero net energy UC Davis West Village community in 2011, and this year on the completion of the 16-megawatt plant we are celebrating today, the UC system’s largest operating solar power plant. SunPower is working with universities and colleges across the country that are increasing their reliance on solar power to support their sustainability goals and achieve the extraordinary long-term value SunPower systems deliver.”

RELATED: The first turn-key home solar energy solution? SunPower explains 

At the site, SunPower installed a SunPower Oasis Power Plant system, a fully integrated, modular solar power block engineered to rapidly and cost-effectively deploy utility-scale solar projects while optimizing land use. The technology includes robotic solar panel cleaning capability designed by a SunPower innovation team based near UC Davis and uses 75 percent less water than traditional cleaning methods and may improve system performance by up to 15 percent.

Combined with other purchases of solar and hydroelectric energy, the plant is part of UC Davis’ plan to obtain 60 percent of its electricity needs from renewable and carbon-free sources by 2017, ahead of a state goal of 50 percent by 2020.

In addition to the new plant, UC Davis also has about another megawatt of solar power capacity from solar panels in campus parking lots and on buildings. The UC Davis West Village neighborhood has a separate power grid, including 4 MW of SunPower solar panels.

The University of California Office of the President announced last year that it will purchase more than 200,000 MWh per year of solar energy to supply several campuses, including UC Davis. In 2013, UC President Janet Napolitano committed the University of California system to a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2025.


— Solar Builder magazine