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Hybrid street light shines on new alternative energy program


Date: August 4, 2011  

Expanding job opportunities in solar and wind technology prompted the TEEX to introduce the first training site in the Brazos Valley that is affiliated with the Texas Renewable Energy Education Consortium (TREEC). TEEX plans to offer its first 40-hour apprentice-level certification course in solar installation, starting Oct. 31.

Outside the TEEX utilities and energy training facility on the Texas A&M Riverside Campus, a new vertical-axis wind generator & solar hybrid street light has been installed to launch the new training program. The unique, environmentally friendly street light is believed to be the only one in the Brazos Valley. The alternative energy device will not only generate and store energy to operate the light, but the street lamp has a wireless communication link that will provide information on wind and solar energy production and energy consumption by the street light. A wireless weather station will also be integrated into the system that will collect data about wind speed and direction, along with solar intensity, temperature, humidity, and more.

With Texas' natural resources, cost-effective technologies and workforce, the state is poised to be a leader in the renewable energy industry, as evidenced by the recent growth in electricity production from wind farms, said Bill Stansbury, Training Director for Utilities and Alternative Energy, with TEEX's Infrastructure Training & Safety Institute. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that almost 100,000 Americans work in the industry and projects that solar energy could support over half a million U.S. jobs by 2016.

Jobs in the field of alternative energy are increasing in Texas, which already has nearly 175 companies focused on the solar energy industry, Stansbury added. "Solar energy can be created anywhere in Texas, although wind energy is more region specific. Today it's easier for the average person to integrate solar technologies into their home or business. Advancements in solar panel technology and inverters are making it less expensive to offset part of your electric usage.

"It's a good time to offer this training because the renewable energy industry is maturing and coming into its own," he added. "And alternative energy training is a good fit for TEEX , which has a vocational electric power training program that has been around since 1940."

Participants who complete the TEEX solar installer course can earn an apprentice-level Solar Photovoltaic Installer Certification through the Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) International. The TEEX curriculum is certified by ETA, and TEEX is also an ETA certification testing site. The certification test will be given on the last day of the course, Stansbury said.

TEEX is also a member of TREEC, a group of Texas colleges and training organizations dedicated to investigating, developing and teaching curricula dedicated to post-secondary education in emerging energy technologies to meet the demand of the Texas workforce. Sponsored by the State Energy Conservation Office, TREEC's goal is to position Texas as a leader in renewable and sustainable energy commercialization through education.

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