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Cutting-Edge Resources in Solar Energy

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Students begin to dismantle STC’s new solar panels they installed during the semester on a simulated roof structure built at the college’s Technology Campus. The structure was created over the summer to give students the same experience of working on an actual solar roof at residential job sites. A new group of students will practice on installing the panels once the new semester begins in the spring. Image for illustration purposes
Students begin to dismantle STC’s new solar panels they installed during the semester on a simulated roof structure built at the college’s Technology Campus. The structure was created over the summer to give students the same experience of working on an actual solar roof at residential job sites. A new group of students will practice on installing the panels once the new semester begins in the spring. Image for illustration purposes
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By Joey Gomez

McALLEN, Texas – Knowledge is power for South Texas College Electrician Technology students, who are the first in the Valley to use to utilize a newly completed composite-shingled roof structure to simulate real-world residential solar panel installations.

Built last summer at STC’s Technology Campus, the simulated roof structure enables students to utilize a new solar grid system that provides the same experience as working on an actual solar roof installation at residential job sites.

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The structure and equipment at the Technology Campus are exclusive to colleges in the Rio Grande Valley, according to program faculty.

“To my knowledge STC is the only institution in the region with a structure that allows for students to simulate a roof top solar panel installation,” said Jose Vela, STC compliance and accreditation liaison. “All of the programs in the Business, Public Safety and Technology (BPST) division try to stay ahead of the curve. We want to make sure that we have the most innovative technology being utilized in the field, even if it’s not currently being utilized in the region, this way our students are ready to enter in the workforce with the skills needed for the future.”

Students taking the Electrician Technology program’s Solar Fundamentals course in fall 2023 were the first to break in the new simulation rooftop.

“Our students are learning to install a residential solar panel system, which converts solar energy into electrical energy through solar panels in an Enphase grid type system. That basically means those panels change the solar energy into AC electricity, which is what we use in our homes,” said STC Electrician Technology Instructor and Department Chair Christina Aguilar. “This is exactly how you would install actual solar panels on a roof in a residential job site, so students are learning how to do it now, and be prepared when they go out into the field.”

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The solar technology course is one of many available through the program. Electrician Technology also includes courses in residential and commercial work, as well as training in industrial and wind sectors.

“From solar, wind, industrial, residential, commercial to the basic fundamentals of electricity, we have many options for students, and then they can branch out and decide what it is exactly they want to do with this knowledge,” Aguilar said. “A lot of students are really surprised when they get here and they realize we have all these options for them.”

STC student Michael Gonzalez said he began at the college in 2021 with work experience as an electrical installer, but was amazed at how faculty were able to expand his knowledge once he entered the program.

“I started off doing installs for eight months in the field before being brought on to the sales team with my last job, so I had that experience,” Gonzalez said. “STC helped me get an even better picture of electrician work as a whole, helping me further understand this job and expand my knowledge.”

For more information about STC Electrician Technology program visit  www.southtexascollege.edu/academics/electrician/.

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