MCCC students installed solar panels on campus for use in the Renewable Energy program.
Alex Babycz, MCCC professor of Construction Management Technology, coordinated the process.
All of the parts were sourced from U.S. companies, Babycz said. Patriot Solar, a Michigan renewable energy company, donated the racks used for the installation.
It took about a year and a half to get all of the parts, Babycz said.
“This gives the students hands on experience for design work and following through,” he said.
“Students get a hands-on experience, and an opportunity to get ready for employment in a fast growing field,” said Parmeshwar Coomar, Dean of the Applied Science & Engineering Technology Division.
Babycz said installation companies are looking for employees.
The panels will give students a chance to do field work, design, and sales.
Professional electricians are coming into classes to learn how to advance in their field, he said.
The students are able to monitor the energy output of the panels by checking energy meters in the classroom.
The solar panels are wired into the building’s electrical system, which means a small portion of energy is provided to the college by the new solar panels.
According to Babycz, the installation is worth about $6,000. The current retail cost for a panel is $3 per watt installed.
The new energy panels produce about 2,100 watts of electricity, while the panels owned by DTE on the east edge of campus put out 500,000 watts.
DTE only allows students near their panels with supervision because of the high voltage, Babycz said.
The new installation is safer for students, with a much lower risk for electrocution.
The panels on the new installation and the DTE panels use the same technology.
“There are fewer of them and they are wired differently,” Babycz said.
The cost of solar equipment is coming down, Babycz said, but it still is hard to compete with coal-powered electrical generation.
“Most community colleges have similar programs,” Babycz said.
Babycz compared the new panels to a chemistry lab.
“This gives the students something tangible. They can see the results, learn potentials, calculate values, and can check performance,” he said.
“The goal is to add to it, maybe next year double the size,” he said.
A new wind turbine is being installed, and Babycz said he wanted to have it up and running by the end of the semester.
“The alternative energy program is getting more popular,” Babycz said.
In the most recent Introduction to Renewable Energy course, there were 15 students.
There were two or three per class when the program first started.
“The field is booming. Michigan is slow because of the weather, but the need is not going anywhere,” Coomar said.