With solar energy programs gaining ground in Arkansas, a Van Buren business has teamed up with the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith to offer educational courses and public education on the alternative energy source.
In addition to a solar installation certification course in July with UAFS, Energy Efficient Design & Development (EEDD) will host a Solar Night Open House 6 p.m. Thursday at 1224 Fayetteville Road, in Van Buren. Refreshments will be served.
Doug Knierim, chief operating officer of EEDD, said the public event will include information on the upcoming Photovoltaic Installer — Level 1 license classes with UAFS, as well as the benefits of solar energy and potential job growth for installers.
The open house will also be an opportunity to present information on the legislation passed by the Arkansas Legislature this year that makes it easier for homeowners and nonprofit groups to take advantage of solar energy.
“Through its support of sustainable and advanced energy, UAFS helps prepare students to capitalize on this economic space and helps meet the state’s need for qualified technicians as well,” a UAFS news release states. “The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith is continuing its dedication to conservation and sustainability through the support of solar energy initiatives and the UAFS Conservation & Sustainability House.”
UAFS and EEDD will present the five-day course July 8-12 at the EEDD headquarters in Van Buren, with field trips to the UAFS campus designed to provide instruction on both the technical working aspects of solar energy as well as the safe and efficient installation of solar energy collection systems. Upon passing the written and task portions of the certification course, participants will receive a renewable four-year Photovoltaic Installer — Level 1 license.
Participants will be introduced to photovoltaics, solar modules and solar cells, photovoltaic system design and development and basic electrical concepts, as well as proper protocol for conducting site surveys, paperwork, installation, testing and maintenance.
Retired UAFS instructor John Martini, who was instrumental in the design and construction of the Conservation & Sustainability House and now works with the UAFS Center for Business & Professional Development, will conduct the course. Martini is a certified instructor with the Electronic Technicians Association.
“This class will provide the understanding and hands-on ability to design, order, install, commission, troubleshoot and maintain both grid-tied and off-grid solar PV systems,” said Martini.
According to the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, more than 770 advanced energy companies are doing business in Arkansas. The companies are reporting annual sales of more than $1.7 billion and employing nearly 16,000 workers. Another 9,300 advanced energy jobs in related industries account for $1.1 billion in sales, bringing the total impact of advanced energy on the Arkansas economy to $2.8 billion.
At the June 20 event, Martini will have a solar collection system set up for demonstration and will be available to answer questions about solar energy and how it can be used to lower utility bills.
“Adding solar energy to your home can be cost effective as well as an environmentally friendly solution to trim your escalating utility bill,” Martini said.