renewable workforce development

Houston college system adds solar installation program for student-led action on renewables

Houston Community College's new program is training the future renewables workforce. Photo courtesy of HCC

Houston college students students are helping to address the ever-developing needs for renewable energy with the college’s latest solar installation program.

Houston Community College's Solar Energy Technology Photovoltaic and Thermal certificate programs will require students to complete six classes that amount to 18 college credit hours.

The new initiative will provide students with a Level I certificate through HCC’s Electrical Technology program at the HCC Architectural Design and Construction Center of Excellence. Afterwards, they can test to earn industry credentials like the North American Board of Certified Energy Providers photovoltaic associate certification. Students can also study solar systems design, solar inspection, solar sales, or explore engineering degrees post-HCC.

“This board certification is a powerful endorsement of our solar certificate and our professionalism,” Kris Asper, dean of the Center of Excellence, says in a news release. “We are excited that our certificate has been thoroughly reviewed and now has this important distinction. It means we are teaching the best to our solar PV students.”

The demand for solar photovoltaic installers is expected to increase almost 30 percent by 2031 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The need within the solar energy sector is growing exponentially,” said HCC Central College President Dr. Muddassir Siddiqi in a news release. “Community colleges like HCC play a crucial part in opening up this sector to new workers, including students who have been historically underserved by our national energy policies.”

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A View From HETI

A View From UH

A Rice University professor studied the Earth's carbon cycle in the Rio Madre de Dios to shed light on current climate conditions. Photo courtesy of Mark Torres/Rice University

Carbon cycles through Earth, its inhabitants, and its atmosphere on a regular basis, but not much research has been done on that process and qualifying it — until now.

In a recent study of a river system extending from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon floodplains, Rice University’s Mark Torres and collaborators from five institutions proved that that high rates of carbon breakdown persist from mountaintop to floodplain.

“The purpose of this research was to quantify the rate at which Earth naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and find out whether this process varies across different geographic locations,” Torres says in a news release.

Torres published his findings in a study published in PNAS, explaining how they used rhenium — a silvery-gray, heavy transition metal — as a proxy for carbon. The research into the Earth’s natural, pre-anthropogenic carbon cycle stands to benefit humanity by providing valuable insight to current climate challenges.

“This research used a newly-developed technique pioneered by Robert Hilton and Mathieu Dellinger that relies on a trace element — rhenium — that’s incorporated in fossil organic matter,” Torres says. “As plankton die and sink to the bottom of the ocean, that dead carbon becomes chemically reactive in a way that adds rhenium to it.”

The research was done in the Rio Madre de Dios basin and supported by funding from a European Research Council Starting Grant, the European Union COFUND/Durham Junior Research Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation.

“I’m very excited about this tool,” Torres said. “Rice students have deployed this same method in our lab here, so now we can make this kind of measurement and apply it at other sites. In fact, as part of current research funded by the National Science Foundation, we are applying this technique in Southern California to learn how tectonics and climate influence the breakdown of fossil carbon.”

Torres also received a three-year grant from the Department of Energy to study soil for carbon storage earlier this year.

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