SAVANNAH — Jason White, one of the founders of Okefenokee Solar, Inc., in Blackshear, attended Savannah Technical College’s Photovoltaic Systems class twice a week last summer. Then, he earned certification by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), a national certification organization for professional installers in the field of renewable energy. With his Photovoltaic training and NABCEP certification, White has installed 14 solar pump stations, one 8.25 kilowatt (KW) commercial installation and one 10KW residential system, since his company was established in 2012.
Students like White benefit from the college’s commitment to sustainable technologies through training for installation and maintenance of renewable energy technology for solar, wind and solar thermal. This spring the college started its wind energy class, and this summer students may enroll in a Photovoltaic Systems or solar energy class.
“We know sustainability continues to be a driving force in how businesses make their decisions for future growth and development,” said STC President Kathy Love. “It is important for Savannah Technical College to prepare students for a variety of sustainable industries including renewable energy, green-building construction, energy efficiency, alternative fuel technology and historic preservation.”
Last summer, STC students enrolled in the Photovoltaic Systems class installed a 28.2KW system of solar panels on the College’s Industrial Technology building at the Savannah campus. This installation doubled the College’s solar panel footprint from 120 to 240 panels. Each panel has a 230W capacity.
This summer, STC will offer the Photovoltaic Systems class through the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program beginning May 30. The hybrid evening class allows students to listen to lectures and do course work from home computers and come to campus two nights a week for hands-on instruction. Due to popular demand this class is now offered year-round at Savannah Tech.
STC Department Head Lester Wiggins uses the two different installation methods for each set of panels to teach the students the power of heat’s effect on electricity. The set of panels installed last summer has the same wattage as the previously installed panels, but it produces more energy due to its raised racks.
“Heat is electricity’s biggest enemy,” said Wiggins. “By installing the newest set of panels five inches higher on the roof, they will stay cooler and produce more power.”
Raising the panels produces approximately six percent more energy or an additional average of 208 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month.
According to Wiggins, optimal placement for solar panels is due south. He also said that panels should be installed at an angle with the same latitude as the location. For Savannah, that is 32 degrees. Wiggins discovered the roof of the college’s Industrial Technology building, which faces due south, was slanted nearly 32 degrees with the first solar panel installation in May 2011.
The college’s Industrial Technology and Auto Technology Buildings averaged 26,000 kWh total for monthly use in 2012, according to actual billed usage from Georgia Power.