Daniel Costin, Program Chair, Renewable Energy, Vermont Technical College
The renewable energy program at Vermont Tech was founded in 2014 with industry collaboration. Funding was provided by the Blittersdorf Family Foundation. Our advisory board was made up of representatives from renewable energy companies such as SunCommon, SunWood Biomass, AllEarth Renewables, and Norwich Solar. These advisory board members have helped to keep the curriculum relevant to the fast-changing renewable field. The curriculum is about the engineering of renewable energy systems. It teaches the students how to design, analyze, and build systems. Many of the companies on our advisory board have hired our graduates and also provided summer jobs for our students. These students are prepared for summer jobs by taking classes in mechanical, architectural, and electrical engineering, solar PV, hydro, building science, and wind energy. They get to put their skills to work on the job and learn new skills, too. Once they come back to class in the fall, they write about their experiences. Here are some excerpts.
What I was trying to achieve during my time at Solaflect was to become more of an independent worker than when I had started, while also learning a little more about the solar industry. I definitely ended up achieving both of these goals. I started off needing validation from my superiors that my work was good enough, but by the end, I was leading jobs while teaching other interns. – Henry Pentland
Work at Wanzek Construction related to the classroom topics that we went over in the solar PV class with our teacher Will White, such as adjusting azimuth angles, panel/inverter wiring as well as shading. Problem-solving at school helped as I had to be quick on my feet to adapt and learn as needed to be successful and talk about my work confidently. The hands-on approach that we take in every class at Vermont Tech also helped. Overall this was one of the best experiences of my life. – Thomas Ferguson
New connections to industry are being added to the curriculum. Vermont Tech graduate Bret Benner of AllEarth Renewables assisted us with the maintenance of our 100 ft anemometer tower. With his help, we were able to lower the tower and the students replaced aging instruments. Our students will soon be visiting Green Mountain Power’s hydroelectric facility on the Little River in Waterbury, VT. Preston Gregory, another Vermont Tech graduate, is organizing that tour. The students use the computer program Matlab/Simulink to study the control of hydroelectric and other types of rotating generation. This trip is an opportunity to see the control of hydro turbines happening in real time. Also, Norwich Technologies is developing a 2.2 MW solar site in Barre with workforce training in mind. They will construct this site with features to provide a convenient location for construction and operation and maintenance training. Our existing solar PV class covers construction, but as more solar sites are installed, careers in operation and maintenance of those sites become more likely. And as the climate crisis becomes more urgent, so does the need for renewable technologies like the heat pump and wind turbine donated by AllEarth Renewables.
At Vermont Tech, we are extremely grateful to our industry supporters. It is a great relationship that helps our students learn, and helps to train workers for the renewable industry in Vermont and New Hampshire. Demand for our graduates is very strong, and we hope to keep producing well-trained graduates.