By: Amy Foster, Staff Reporter | Photo By: Stefany Olivas, Managing Editor
The Photovoltaic program is designed to train students in the steadily emerging technology that helps save the environment through solar energy, said full-time instructor Jessie Harwell.
CNM’s program is in its second year and its four-course series of classes is at full capacity, said Harwell. Photovoltaics are the solar panels that appear blue or reflective silver from far away and are grouped together in large square grids.
“The Photovoltaic system is just another branch of electrical to me. It’s a branch that I’ve always loved. My favorite days are always out in the field installing solar modules,” said Harwell.
In the lab courses, students break down grids to see how they are put together, wire systems and install modules on roofs inside the WTC laboratory, said Harwell.
There is a part of the course when the student will learn to hang from a safety harness after building a scaffolding, said Harwell.
“I have to say they have a solid program. You really learn what you’re doing,” said Construction Technology major Debbey Oscar.
Students begin with a safety class, where they have the opportunity to earn an OSHA10 card and move on to the lab courses, said Harwell.
The program also offers a curriculum approved by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, said Harwell. This means that any graduate is qualified to test to become a certified installer, said Harwell.
In the past, there has been a lack of experienced electricians to work in the rapidly growing solar field, said Harwell.
Many people, whether in construction or the electrical trade, do not specialize in solar energy and attempt to improvise, said Harwell.
“That’s one of the things that has motivated me to come here and be a teacher is to increase that knowledge base,” said Harwell.
The growing interest in green energy has caused an increase in people wanting solar panels installed on their homes, said Harwell.
The state of New Mexico is a good location for solar energy, said Harwell. A high number of undeveloped areas, ranches and farms are located in places where it is costly to get the utility companies to travel, said Harwell.
“We’ve always been a good solar area here in the Southwest. We get the big blue skies. We have the best solar resource in the country,” said Harwell.