A Renewable Energy Education that Makes an Impact

May Intake Now on for Important Program


For a second year, Selkirk College will be offering its popular Renewable Energy Technology (RET) intensive six-week program starting in May.

The RET program covers theory and applied skills related to energy conservation, small hydro, wind energy, solar PV, solar thermal, ground source energy and biomass.

RET Program 2014

Renewable Energy Technology students have the opportunity to install solar photo-volatic panels and connect them to homes or to the grid.

“Selkirk College is leading the transition towards environmental and economic sustainability,” says Selkirk College RET instructor Robert Macrae. “Renewable energy cannot be depleted, is non-polluting, does not contribute to global climatic change, and most surprising for many, costs less than conventional energy.”

Lower Energy Bills, Help Save Earth

The best way to lower your energy bill is to consume less energy. Energy conservation allows consumers to save hundreds of dollars a year without lowering their standard of living. RET students learn to conduct energy audits and to evaluate the cost-to-benefit of different energy retrofit scenarios.

RET students will study homes built to the Passive House design standard. These buildings use conventional building materials, but through better design consume one-tenth the energy of a conventional home. There are even homes built in Canada that are classified as net-zero energy. These homes combine energy efficient design, energy efficient appliances and integration of renewable energy technologies so they don’t require any purchased energy.

“While the costs and risks of extracting, transporting and processing liquid fossil fuels have risen, the costs and risks of renewable energy have declined,” says Macrae. “The media is filled with stories about tank cars explosions, unstoppable off-shore oil well leaks, fracking and pipelines. RET students learn how liquid fuels can be manufactured on a large scale from safe, environmentally-friendly, renewable sources.”

Carbon-neutral biodiesel, for example, can be synthesized from used vegetable oil, animal fat or from algae. RET students culture algae, extract oil from the algae and convert the oil into biodiesel. On a large scale, studies have demonstrated the potential to produce sufficient biodiesel from algae to replace all liquid fossil fuel consumed in North America at a cost competitive with fossil fuels and far more safely.

Solutions Needed Now More Than Ever

Presently, because of its local abundance, coal is used to generate about 15 per cent of electricity consumed in Canada and 50 per cent of the electricity consumed in the United States.

“RET students learn that the capital cost of building a wind power plant is less than the capital cost of a coal power plant of equal output,” says Macrae. “It’s not surprising that operating costs for wind power are much lower than coal power because fuel arrives at wind turbines free of charge, without costly mining, transporting, handling, cleaning ash and managing air pollution. Both Canada and the US have sufficient wind resources to generate more than the amount of electricity currently consumed.”

During the course of study, students install solar photo-voltaic panels and connect them to homes or to the grid. RET students also install and operate a small wind turbine and acquire hands-on experience with ground source (geo-thermal) heat pumps, solar thermal hot water heaters, and micro hydro technology.

“There was a time when renewable energy sounded like science fiction, a time when fossil fuels were thought to be limitless, but the world has changed,” says Macrae. “Today, imagining a future powered by renewable energy is not only possible, but the lower cost, clean, safe option. Selkirk College’s Renewable Energy Technology program is leading the transition towards a sustainable economy where renewable energy will play an increasingly important role.”

The six-week program begins May 5. If you’re interested in joining the next cohort in the Selkirk College Renewable Energy Technology program, please contact Brendan Wilson at


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