Central Community College-Hastings is introducing an energy technology program, a unique associate’s degree that includes instruction in wind energy, solar energy and battery storage.
CCC hired Taylor Schneider, energy technology instructor, to teach the program this upcoming fall semester. Classes start Aug. 19.
Schneider said the program sets itself apart from others because it teaches wind, solar and battery technology, rather than just one. Schneider said the energy technology program at CCC is the only one to teach all three in the nation.
By having the three-part program, students will be able to enter into any of the three fields. The program takes two years to complete.
“Students are going to be able to dive in deeply to the three and feel for where they want to be instead of just having to go into strictly to a wind school or strictly into a solar school,” Schneider said.
Schneider said students will be able to take the diverse range of instruction and go into any of those fields, all of which are growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 96% increase in employment for wind technicians between 2016-2026; the average occupation growth is 7%.
“They’re growing fields. They’re just constantly growing,” Schneider said.
Schneider will be teaching four classes this fall, including introductions to solar panel systems, wind systems and climbing safety.
CCC has equipment for wind technology, including a wind turbine that was constructed and taken online in January 2017 and four solar panel structures. Schneider plans to use the equipment available to give the students hands on experience.
“I want to be out there on that wind turbine more than twice a year. I want to be climbing. I think hands-on is a huge key,” he said.
The program also is partnering with several companies to facilitate the program. Hastings Utilities already has given Schneider permission to access the new solar panel site west of Hastings Municipal Airport. Residents will be able to participate in the solar energy project Aug. 12.
Schneider also is working with ENSA, a company in Wisconsin, to teach students about safety while climbing. Their facilities include climbable training structures and medical training. There, they will be able to practice climbing in a controlled environment and learn how to execute tower rescues, where one partner will rescue another, and rappelling — an important skill when wind turbines can be over 300 feet tall, Schneider said.
“Safety is the number one thing that I will be pushing — from everything in clearances to procedures when doing different jobs jobs. That’s the big thing that these students need to wrap their heads around,” he said.
On the battery side, students will learn how to use supervisory control and data acquisition systems. SCADA provides information on energy systems.
There are currently two students signed up for the program. While he was hoping for more this first year, Schneider feels confident that more people will get interested in the field.
“Right now, I’m in the grow my baby stage,” he said.
Schneider’s previous experience focuses on wind energy, building wind turbines, maintaining them and inspections. This includes working with NextEra Energy in Peetz, Colorado, where he said he helped service and maintain a 380-turbine wind farm. He also helped build a solar panel site in Roswell, New Mexico, while working for Blattner Energy.
Schneider is currently a CCC student, working toward an associate’s degree in drafting and design technology-architecture.
The three pieces of the program are strongly related, being renewable energy capture and storage; however, Schneider said there is little overlap in how the pieces interact, except for being connected to the power grid.
“They’re productive in their own way,” he said.