FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The green energy revolution has been in the works for more than four decades and as these initiatives gain momentum and size nationally and locally, the need for a green workforce grows. Today, renewable energy jobs are one of the fastest growing employment fields in the nation, but few existing workers specialize or are trained to fill many of these new occupations.
To gain the skills needed to enter the green energy field, hundreds of local workers and visitors from all over the state and country are flocking to Coconino Community College (CCC).
Since 2009, CCC has lead Arizona and much of the west coast in green skills training and is now a recognized leader in designing alternative energy curriculum. To date, more than 216 students have been instructed in green energy processes and applications.
In addition to offering an Associate of Applied Science in Sustainable Green Building, CCC also partners with local workforce investment boards and other federal and state agencies to provide short term training sessions that focus on updating the skills of incumbent workers. These courses are part of an Energy Efficient Training Series designed by the college's Community & Corporate Learning division that aims to provide a foundational understanding of green building techniques, energy auditing practices, solar system design and installation, water distribution and utility management. To jumpstart the series, the Community & Corporate Learning collaborated with the U.S. Department of Labor, which provided a State Energy Sector Partnership Grant to help subsidize student tuition during the first two years of the program.
Most recently, the National Park Service sent 24 maintenance and facility workers to Flagstaff to complete a 45-hour photovoltaic training course. From Feb. 6-10 these workers were instructed on how to design, install and maintain photovoltaic systems. As part of the training, students traveled to Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area and installed a 15kw grid-tie solar power system to a pressure well house. The installed solar system now allows the well house to pump water from Lake Tahoe independently.
In 2010, the National Park Service commissioned CCC to design this training practicum to skills train incumbent workers in solar panel installation and maintenance. This is the third consecutive year the college has instructed the photovoltaic courses for the organization.
A few days earlier, CCC conducted a weatherization training course for 15 residential and commercial contractors that work for several local businesses such as InterMountain Plumbing, Mechanical and Solar and Regroup Performance Contracting. The three-day course, held from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, updated the skills of these workers to allow them to perform home energy audits, a service in high demand by residents looking to retrofit their living spaces and cut their energy use.
The course provided instruction on how to identify and install building retrofits that will optimize energy efficiency and protect structures from sunlight, precipitation, wind and other elements. The course focused on retrofitting techniques to properly air-seal and insulate a home.
"There are lots of people who think of green building and immediately start talking about solar panels. However, an even simpler solution to meeting ones energy need is the use of insulation, caulking and weather stripping, as to avoid wasting the energy produced," said Matt Ragan, a local residential contractor with AAS Sustainable green building and alternative energy and student of the course. "The place where heat loss occurs can be ranked in order of 40 percent out the lid, another 40 percent though the floor and 20 percent that goes literally out the window."
Students applied their new knowledge by retrofitting the first floor Zane Grey Ballroom and bar of the historic Weatherford Hotel located at 23 N. Leroux in Flagstaff. The retrofit included weather-stripping all doors and calking windows.
"This program will help long-term contractors and utility workers gain the certification needed to transition into the green energy sector, rather than become obsolete," said Alex Wright.
The training prepared workers for the Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification exam. Many utility companies throughout the state now require contractors to have BPI certification.