Photovoltaic Solar Panel Installation Training

The issues surrounding the need to find alternative energy sources to offset the dwindling reserves and dependence on foreign sources of oil and gas are well known. Yet, the complexity of creating an indelible change on a culture is monumental. HELP-NM created a successful solar panel installation training program for farmworkers and low-income participants who were either unemployed or underemployed.

With the assistance of the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, HELP-NM staff:

a. Became familiar with the curriculum,

b. Experienced the process and

c. Actually took part in the technical application.

The fact that staff had some experience in the training would allow them to be able to assist instructors and help facilitate and mentor the participants when required. It also allowed HELP-NM staff to understand the new language of the green energy market place and use it to create new partnerships and nurture existing partnerships. In addition, translations from English to Spanish were provided in order to ensure training wasn’t limited to only fluent English language speakers.

Growing the Green Workforce

This initiative was designed to educate a group of people who would not ordinarily have access to training or be exposed to knowledge about this type of alternative energy source. HELP-NM brought the training to the people. Classes were held in areas where people had easy access. In the Southwestern part of the state, for example, training was established in a rural area with classroom sessions offered at a partner organization’s office where participants felt comfortable.

Another strategy was making the training times conducive to those taking the class. Many were working, were in school, and/or had family responsibilities; thus the need to hold the classes outside of the regular office hours was recognized to ensure participants were able to attend. Hours were varied to appeal to most people. For example, in the southwest, classes were held in the evenings and the actual installation was done on the weekend. These expanded hours also accommodated the schedule of instructors who had other jobs as well. In addition, installing a system in a community of low-income housing helped educate a village by bringing an awareness of this issue and emerging problem.

Training lasted 40 hours combining classroom learning on design requirements with actual installation of a Photovoltaic (PV) system for various locations, which provided a hands-on opportunity to take part in an installation process. The University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico provided three credit hours for those with high school diplomas or equivalency who completed the course.

Partnering for Success

The training program was designed by HELP-NM as collaborative model involving non-profits, education institutions, and the private sector:

·         El Paso Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee: Conducted the classroom training and assisted with the installation in the southwestern region.

·         Border Solar Energy Company: This Company provided the expertise to do the solar panel installation on the home of two farmworkers in Anthony, New Mexico. They obtained all the required materials and equipment for the installation.

·         New Mexico Solar Energy Association: The NMSEA provided the training to HELP-NM staff. This included classroom training and the installation training.

·         Tierra Del Sol Housing Corporation: Provided the two low income homes for the installation and the site for the classroom training in Anthony New Mexico. They also assisted with the recruitment of participants in the Anthony area.

·         New Mexico State University’s Doña Ana Community College: Provided the instructor for the classroom training and for the mock installation in Sandoval County. They provided the equipment for the mock installation.

·         Job Corp: Provided some of the participants from their apprenticeship training program

·         Central New Mexico Community College: Provided the facilities for the classroom training and a mock installation site in Albuquerque. They also assisted with the recruitment some of the participants from their electrician’s program

·         Affordable Solar, Inc.: Provided the trainers for the Albuquerque installation

Results

Training was carried out for 73 participants in three areas of New Mexico:

Southwestern Region

23 people were enrolled in the Photovoltaic (PV) Installation training and all 23 participants have and continue to have jobs. Of those, 12 are green jobs. In addition, the PV installation was done on the homes of two farmworkers in new homes built by Tierra Del Sol housing. These new home owners along with others in the neighborhood were educated on the advantages and benefits of the PV system and have spread the word to others in the community.

Bernalillo County

25 participants were enrolled in the PV Installation training. Of the 25, 13 were students enrolled in various post-secondary programs and all 13 continued with their education. Six of those 13 enrolled in other trainings that would enhance their knowledge of the design and installation of PV systems. Ten of the participants were able to maintain their jobs, 4 of which were green jobs. It is interesting to note that of the 25 participants, 2 were teachers who participated in the class so that they could enhance their programs at the community college.

Sandoval County

25 participants were enrolled in the PV Installation training. Of the 25, 10 owned businesses that would be enhanced if they could offer PV systems to their customers. Six participants continued their education with an emphasis in the design and installation of PV systems. Nine of the participants had jobs when they took the class and continue work applying the knowledge acquired to their work place.

Individual Success Story

One participant received their North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners certification (NABCEP) which is the “gold standard” for PV and solar thermal installation certification. This participant was one who owned his own business and due to the downturn in the economy was at risk of losing his business. He reports that this certification and the training and knowledge he now has allowed him to keep his business opened.

Other Benefits

 

Additional outcomes as a result of this project were that HELP-NM was transformed as an agency with regard to knowledge about the green job sector. Networking has occurred with other agencies and businesses who are seeking trainees in this targeted job market. Assistance has also been given to business partners in ways to become greener in their operations.

 


Information Sources:


Solar Demonstration Project - HELP-New Mexico


Farmworkers to Install Solar Photovoltaic Systems Tomorrow (news article from January 2012)


Photovoltaic (PV) Installer Resource Guide

 



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