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University of Arkansas Hope campus roll out solar energy technology curriculum

by Andrew Bell | November 16, 2021 at 10:00 p.m.
From left, Jennifer Teresa, dean of Technical and Industrial programs; Laura Clark, vice chancellor for Academics; and Don Hollanger, Solar Technology instructor at the construction site of the solar energy technology lab on the University of Arkansas Hope campus. (Photo courtesy of Casey Curtis/UAHT)

HOPE, Ark. -- Earlier this year, the University of Arkansas Hope Texarkana received approval from the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees to install a one-megawatt solar array and solar learning lab on the Hope campus to integrate into a new Certificate of Proficiency in Solar Energy Technology.

The solar energy student lab is under construction now, and the certificate program begins this spring at the Hope campus.

Laura Clark, vice chancellor for Academics, said there are no other programs like this in Arkansas.

"When we checked, the only nearest programs were in Missouri and Texas when we started this program," Clark said. "Especially since our program is going to have a third-party credential, it makes it very unique."

This effort by the college to push a solar power program comes as solar power is growing in popularity in the state, after passage of Act 464 of 2019 -- which allows third-party financing of solar projects. This is beneficial to tax-exempt organizations and government entities, like colleges, that otherwise would not qualify for federal tax incentives for installing solar panels.

"We see it as a future demand," Clark said. "We're trying to stay ahead of the workforce need. If you look around, (solar arrays) are starting to pop up everywhere. So, the thing that is missing is -- where are the workers coming from? A lot of these solar companies are having to train their own workers on how to install these panels.

"So, what we're hoping to do is provide a workforce so where, not only do our students have good jobs, but solar in our area is increased because that's the way of the future."

The nine-credit-hour Certificate of Proficiency in Solar Energy Technology curriculum is adopted from Solar Energy International, the global leader in providing classroom curriculum and lab training in solar energy.

By using the SEI curriculum, UAHT will become an approved training provider for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. This certificate provides the necessary training to install, construct, maintain and operate solar electric systems. The certificate is designed as part of the path to completing the Associate of Applied Science in Power Technologies degree at UAHT.

"This makes (students) more employable, and it shows credibility to the program," Clark said.

Courses for the solar energy technology certificate include: Photovoltaics Systems, Solar Electric Design and Installation Lab.

UAHT created the first Power Plant Technology program in the state, offering multiple pathways in Power Plant Operations and Maintenance. In 2018, UAHT modified its curriculum to change the focus from entirely coal fire to all forms of power, including renewable energies.

(For more information call 870-777-5722 or visit uaht.edu.)

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