First Renewable Energy Technology Class Graduates
A class of eight Selkirk College students became the first to earn their certificates in “energy literacy” after completing the six-week Advanced Certificate in Renewable Energy Technology (RET) this June.
RET is a comprehensive, grassroots, hands-on and environmentally-sensitive program that teaches students how to use energy more efficiently and how to apply renewable energy sources such as geothermal, micro hydro, wind, solar and biomass.
“I’m convinced renewable energy is our future,” said instructor Robert Macrae, who has taught courses in Selkirk College’s Integrated Environmental Planning Technology program since 1996 and is a renewable energy enthusiast himself.
Selkirk College instructor Adam James, who specializes in the installation of geothermal heating systems, demonstrates an equipment installation for his students.
Environmentally Sound, Economically Wise
“We see prices escalating at the gas pumps and for electricity while renewable energy is descending in price. Today renewable energy is less expensive than traditional fossil fuel energy so all we need now is to make the adaptation.”
“In a world that is increasingly concerned with carbon footprints, alternative energy is just good public relations for businesses because more and more customers choose businesses that strive to be sustainable,” said Macrae. “Further, energy conservation provides the best bang for your buck. For example, there is a trend toward building ‘net zero energy homes’ and retrofitting existing homes to lower their energy consumption. Energy efficient homes are less drafty and therefore more comfortable. It’s a win-win for the homeowner and the environment.”
Practical and Hands-On
While theory is covered in the RET program, the focus is on teaching students how to install renewable energy technologies themselves. The program combines hands-on experiences with field trips to local homes and businesses which already employ renewable energy technologies so students can see working models in action.
“We want them to install a solar panel and not just talk about it,” said Macrae. “And then we go and see people who actually use them.”
The program’s first intake attracted students from a variety of professional backgrounds including Laura Sacks who has a Masters in Environmental Sciences and a Bachelor’s degree in Geology, 20 years of hydrology experience and has owned and operated a local organic farm.
“I have been interested in renewable energy for years and that interest has intensified as issues of global climate change are becoming more urgent,” said Sacks. “We will need to move quickly away from fossil fuels and transition to renewables if we want to survive this crisis. One reason for taking this program was to see how easily this transition can occur, with the hope that I could be involved in that process.”
Opening Doors for Graduates
Luis Daniel Rivera Rodriguez, who originally hails from Mexico and has a degree in Mechatronics Engineering, took the Selkirk College program so he could pursue a Master’s program in renewable energy technologies.
“I have been looking for a chance to learn more about renewable energy for a long time because that is the field where I want to work,” said Rivera. “This was a perfect chance for me to get on my way. I am pursuing further opportunities for work and education because I am convinced the world needs more efforts put into it, as much as possible, and in all possible ways.”
Both students enjoyed the hands-on experiences they got from the Selkirk College program as well as the opportunity to network with other like-minded individuals.
“I was able to meet people from different backgrounds and discuss many ideas around the current sources of energy, environment, policies, perspectives, the future, and so on,” said Rivera.
“I really liked the way the theoretical classroom time complimented with the hands-on use of the technology,” said Sacks. “And I also enjoyed the field trips seeing examples of what is going on locally, and discussing challenges with those working regularly with renewable energy.”
After completing the program grads will use their new knowledge to create businesses that retrofit existing homes to include alternative energy sources, retrofit their own homes or go on to pursue more education in the field.
A Regional Collaboration
Selkirk College is no stranger to renewable energy technologies. The MIR Centre for Peace on the Castlegar campus is outfitted with a geothermal heating system and the Castlegar student residence has solar thermal hot water heating.
FortisBC and the Heritage Credit Union both contributed generously to the capital fund for the Renewable Energy Technology program. Businesses such as The Seed Studio and Selkirk Power in Nelson and Kootenay Market in Castlegar kindly opened their premises for tours and to share information for the RET program. The RET program is delivered by the Selkirk College School of Environment and Geomatics.
The next program intake for the Advanced Certificate in Renewable Energy Technology (RET) is in May 2014.