Owens Community College: New Renewable Energy Technology

Brad Meyer
Member Spotlight

Area residents recently received a firsthand look at Owens Community College's new renewable energy technology on the Findlay-area campus as the academic institution officially unveiled a new solar array and wind turbine during a community dedication in partnership with GreaterFindlayInc. "Owens Community College is committed to providing area residents leading-edge academic resources and programming within the growing field of alternative and renewable energy," said Dr. Michael Bankey, Owens vice president of Workforce and Community Services.

The new wind turbine and solar array on the Findlay-area campus will play an important role in affording our students the chance to receive hands-on, experiential learning at the highest level. The use of renewable energy is growing nationwide as it is becoming a more viable option for commercial business and residential home consumption. Owens Community College is proud to promote the continued development of wind and solar power through community outreach advocacy and educational opportunities.

Both the solar array and wind turbine, which are located adjacent to the Community Education and Wellness Center on the Findlay-area campus, will be used for educational training within Workforce and Community Services' Photovoltaic Installation Program and Wind Installation Program as well as for future academic curriculum programming in the School of Technology. Additionally, Owens students received the unique opportunity to place themselves in the shoes of a professional photovoltaic installer as they assisted in the installation of the new solar array. Sixteen students participating in the college's Renewable Energy Program received experiential learning specific to the actual mounting and wiring of each panel to the structure's framework.

For Owens student Doug Woolard of Toledo, the chance to make a lasting impact on the Findlay-area campus' future related to alternative energy was an experience of a lifetime. "Alternative energy is the wave of the future worldwide," he stated. "This new technology is a great addition to the Findlay-area campus and I am honored to have assisted in the installation process." Owens student and Toledo resident George Cowdrey added, "I see alternative energy as an area for job growth and educational classes such as Owens' Renewable Energy Program are preparing me for employment opportunities within the wind and solar industry."

Solar Array. The 1.7-kilowat solar array features eight panels and will be used for hands-on learning as well as to convert sunlight into electricity for regular operational purposes in the Community Education and Wellness Center. Photovoltaic cells within each panel will absorb the sun's rays and create a current of power that will be directed to an inverter. The inverter will then convert the DC voltage, produced by the panels, to AC voltage.

Owens' new solar array on the Findlay-area campus is different than the alternative energy technology located on the Toledo-area campus in order to showcase other renewable energy equipment and installation techniques for students. The Findlay-area campus solar array features a small inverter for each solar module, while the solar array design on Toledo-area campus uses a single inverter for an entire group of solar panels.

Individuals attending Owens' Photovoltaic Installation Program on the Findlay-area campus will receive instruction in electricity and photovoltaic systems and theory. Course content includes system sizing and construction, codes and standards, interconnection safety, troubleshooting, and maintenance. Installation practices related to project management, adapting mechanical and electrical design, and system commissioning are also highlighted. In addition, the hands-on course will include the design and installation of a grid-tied photovoltaic system and maintenance on the new solar array system at the Findlay-area campus. Various inverters, photovoltaic modules, batteries and data information systems will also be installed and operated as part of the class.

Students successfully completing the Photovoltaic Installation Program will qualify to test for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioner (NABCEP) PV Entry Level Certificate of Knowledge program. With additional work experience students will qualify to take the national certification test as a photovoltaic system installer.

Wind Turbine. The 2.4-kilowatt wind turbine generator will be used to convert wind power into electricity for regular operational purposes within the Community Education and Wellness Center. The 33-foot Skystream 3.7 wind turbine is a fully integrated, utility-connected wind generator designed specifically for residential and small commercial businesses.

Individuals attending Owens' Wind Installation Program will receive instruction in installation, operation, and maintenance of wind turbines. Course content includes training in wind measurement, system terminology, and connection to a power grid, among other areas. Installation practices related to installation safety, basics of electricity, interconnection with the utility, siting, battery metering, and load management and energy efficiency are also highlighted. Additionally, the hands-on applications will include studying the design and installation of the new 33-foot Skystream 3.7 wind turbine on the Findlay-area campus.

Owens' Workforce and Community Services is planning to offer its initial classes in the Photovoltaic Installation Program and the Wind Installation Program on Findlay-area campus to area residents in the near future.

Superior Energy Solutions LLC in Ottawa oversaw the process of installing both the solar array and wind turbine on the Findlay-area campus.