The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana (UAHT) received approval from the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees on Thursday, January 28, to install a one-megawatt solar array and solar learning lab on the Hope campus. A solar array is a collection of multiple solar panels that generate electricity as a system. The array will take up approximately seven acres on the south end of the campus. It will allow the college to become more environmentally friendly and save money by producing electricity for the college.
A key component of this project is the installation of a smaller hands-on solar learning lab. “This solar lab will be integrated into the new Certificate of Proficiency in Solar Energy Technology program that the Board approved last year,” Laura Clark, Interim Chancellor, said. “The lab will be modeled after the state-of-the-art Solar Energy International (SEI) lab in Colorado and will allow our students to take their classroom instruction and apply it by actually installing and uninstalling several types of solar arrays. The lab will be the first of its kind for photovoltaics in the region and fills a current need for accredited technicians in Arkansas.”
The Certificate of Proficiency in Solar Energy Technology curriculum is adopted from SEI, the global leader in providing classroom curriculum and lab training in solar energy. Using the SEI curriculum, UAHT will become an approved training provider for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). NABCEP is the most respected, well-established, and widely recognized certification organization for professionals in the field of renewable energy. This certificate provides the necessary training to install, construct, maintain, and operate solar electric systems. The classroom curriculum for the program is expected to begin in the fall 2021 semester. The certificate is integrated as part of the path to completing the Associate of Applied Science in Power Technologies degree at UAHT.
“Becoming an approved NABCEP training partner means our graduates are eligible to sit for the NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification Exam to earn their PV Associate Credential,” Clark said. “The PV Associate Credential is the opening pathway for graduates who want to move into specializations such as design, inspection, or solar fields engineering. The credential also opens the door for UAHT to add these additional educational tracks for credit and non-credit certifications.”
Funding for the solar lab has been awarded from an AEP SWEPCO Foundation grant in the amount of $200,000. “Forward-thinking education programs such as this will not only provide students with vibrant careers but will equip them with the skills necessary to provide both clean and affordable power to their communities,” Jennifer Harland, SWEPCO Manager External Affairs, said.
In addition, Entegrity Energy Partners, which was selected to design and install the solar project, as well as First Solar and OMCO Solar, are donating solar modules and racking equipment to help complete the laboratory. “With the growth we are experiencing as a company and the growth of the solar industry in Arkansas and surrounding states, Entegrity is excited to partner with UAHT on this project and have access to future accredited graduates to grow our workforce,” John Coleman, Entegrity’s Regional Director said.
According to Solar Industry International Association, Arkansas moved from 36th in 2019 to 25th in 2021 in national ranking for solar installations. Arkansas currently has 42,561 homes powered by solar, with twenty-six solar companies in the state. This growth, along with solar prices falling approximately forty-five percent in the last five years, is projected to continue over the next five years. “The solar power industry employs a wide range of occupations in major industry segments including research and development, manufacturing of solar power materials, construction of solar power plants, operation of solar power plants, and solar power installation and maintenance,” Clark said. “Industry expansion is expected in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, which will create new renewable energy jobs. The solar lab will give our students a real hands-on learning experience that will allow them to be competitive in this growing job market.”
“We are extremely excited about this project and what it does for our college, community, and region,” Clark said. “This approval by the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees is a significant endorsement of UAHT’s innovative commitment to our continued leadership in power production education, energy workforce development, the growth of our campus educational facilities, and fiscal responsibility for the long-term operational health of our institution.”
For more information, call 870-777-5722 or visit uaht.edu today.