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Centennial College course shines light on future opportunities for electricians

Dan O'Reilly
Centennial College course shines light on future opportunities for electricians
Licensed electrician and Centennial College Solar PV Installation Program instructor Peter Darnbrough shows one of the five rooftop simulators that will be used to teach electricians. -

Electricians are looking to the sky for future opportunities in the renewable energy sector at Centennial College in Toronto.

A just-underway course is providing a handful of journeymen and apprentices with Solar PV installation training through the use of labs, lectures and outdoor rooftop simulators.

Conducted on Saturdays at the college’s Progress Campus, the two-part Solar PV Installation Program is being delivered by the School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science, which spent about a year developing the curriculum.

The first session started near the end of October and the second will be held next spring, although a specific date has not been set.

"There is a high demand for trained electricians and apprentices required for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations," says Slava Rolinsky, the school’s electrical engineering technology co-ordinator.

"More than 80 per cent of new power generation installations globally are in the renewable field and solar PV is one of the largest."

Rolinksy also pointed out that society is shifting from fossil fuels to electrical energy.

A similar program was offered a few years ago, but has been resurrected and updated in response to demand by local electrical companies, he says.

Upon completion of the two courses, students will have a basic knowledge of the various types of solar photovoltaic modules and their sizing, be able to work with the inverters and balance of systems, read solar installation drawings and fully understand installation, maintenance, operation and troubleshooting techniques, says Rolinksy.

To accurately recreate real-life installation challenges, the practical training is being conducted on five outdoor simulators that were built a few years ago as part of a research project and consist of different types of roofing materials.

They include standard tar-based shingles found on all residential roofs in North America, corrugated metal roofing, simulated metal Terracotta and angled framed ballast base commercial flat roof installation, says course instructor Peter Darnbrough.

A licensed 309A Electrician (ICI) with Solar Photovoltaic Certification from the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario, Darnbrough says solar panel technology is constantly evolving and that is why electricians who are interested in this sector have to keep up to that evolution.

One example is the development of micro inverters that convert direct current — which the panels generate — into alternating current electricity on small scale applications for ease of production, he says.

"Electricians always have to keep learning and changing," he adds.

The need for renewable energy sources will have an impact on building construction as demonstrated by the increased popularity of electric cars.

The owners will need to recharge their cars at convenient outlets in houses, condominiums or apartments, he says.

"Once this program gets known more and more (electricians) will want to sign up," says Darnbrough.

Subsequent Solar PV Installation Programs will be offered in 2018, but details and dates have not been finalized, says Rolinksy.

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