Course Tackles Shortage of Wind, Solar Installers

Electricity-market deregulation is creating a brave new world for enterprising companies and consumers that want to generate their own electricity and sell it to their local utility. But while the regulatory framework makes it possible, a shortage of technicians with the right skills has prevented this budding energy sector from growing as quickly as it could, says a Canadian college.

Toronto-based Centennial College is addressing what it’s calling a lack of distributed generation technicians with two new post-graduate certificates in wind or solar energy generation, conversion and control. The courses are offered in the evenings to allow working tradespersons to continue earning an income while gaining new skills. “Solar-panel installers are having a very hard time finding people with the right set of skills,” said Herb Sinnock, who is coordinating the new courses. “Traditionally, this technology has been used in remote areas. Centennial is focusing on energy systems in urban environments.” With wind and solar systems potentially feeding into the local power grid, there’s a concern that the new sources may compromise the integrity of the entire distribution network. “The distribution system has to be protected; that’s what properly trained technicians can ensure,” Sinnock said. To be eligible for the courses, students are expected to already be certified as a millwright, stationary engineer or industrial or residential electrician. Alternatively, they may possess a three-year diploma or degree in mechanical, electrical or related engineering or applied science discipline. Consisting of six evening courses, Centennial’s post-graduate certificate programs can be completed in one year starting this January. The college is also preparing a full-time program in integrated energy systems technology that may launch next fall, pending approval. The program will introduce post-secondary students to solar, wind, hydro, biomass and other distributed generation systems that can be readily integrated into commercial and residential buildings.
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