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Many of our students are pursuing an Associate Degree in areas such as construction, architecture, mechanical design, and data science. There are also electrician apprentices and 4-year transfer students. The majority of these students are working either part or full time while attending school. Many are employed in related STEM fields, and others are seeking to make a career change.
In recent years, the program has averaged about 40 students enrolled in renewable energy coursework each year. Typical class sizes range between 12 and 17.
Four full time (Ken Walz, Joel Shoemaker, Jim Reichling, and Liz Reinke). We also have a group of about 4 adjunct faculty who teach with us part time on an as needed basis.
Madison College joined the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment as an original signatory in 2007. Since that time, the college has undertaken a major effort to reduce its energy footprint of its facilities by more than 60%. The college pioneered the adoption of many new technologies including modular high efficiency condensing boilers, variable frequency drives, energy recovery ventilation systems, occupancy sensors, natural daylighting, LED lighting, and heating and cooling with ground source (geothermal) heat pumps. Energy reduction efforts also included the adoption of a resolution requiring all new construction in the district to be minimum LEED silver compliant, which includes the Protective Services, Health Sciences, South Madison, and Columbus Campuses all built in the past five years. These facilities will serve as examples for other colleges seeking to adopt progressive energy practices at their own institutions.
Over the past decade Madison College has invested in the creation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) teaching facility. For the purpose of hands-on instruction, the outdoor solar PV installation lab includes two asphalt shingle pitched roofs, two standing seam metal pitched roofs, a flat commercial roof, a dual axis tracking pole mount, a seasonally adjustable pole mount, and two utility style ground mount solar PV structures. The lab includes all of the necessary hardware, conduit runs, and balance of system electronics to provide for complete hands-on assembly of full scale, grid connected solar PV systems. The lab includes over 30 kW of installed PV capacity featuring multiple types of DC to AC inverters and rapid shut down devices, including several examples of string inverters, microinverters, and DC optimizer power electronics. The lab also incorporates multiple types of energy storage technology, including several variants of lithium-ion battery technology in both AC- and DC-coupled configurations. The college is currently adding additional electric vehicle charging infrastructure to the instructional solar training lab. This includes multiple types of Level 1 (120 volt) and Level 2 (240 volt) chargers. In addition to installation, Madison College solar PV lab is also used to teach proper commissioning, de-commissioning, inspection and troubleshooting procedures. System output is monitored continuously, and the data is made available digitally for students to access in class.
In January 2019, Madison College commissioned the largest rooftop solar PV system in the State of Wisconsin at the college’s Truax campus. The main building at the Truax campus is vast, with over 1 million square feet of space. The rooftop solar PV system consists of 5700 solar panels and has a rated capacity of 1.85 MegaWatts. The project is bigger than almost all of the rooftop solar projects that have been executed to date in Wisconsin and neighboring Midwest states. Unlike utility projects, the Madison Truax system is owned entirely by the college, and school faculty have exclusive access to the system for educational purposes. When skies are clear, the system is capable of providing all of the energy consumed by the campus for several hours in the middle of the day.
During the solar construction, the Truax building was also modified to provide an ADA accessible ramp and doorway onto the roof, so that the space can now be used for outdoor instruction with students. Faculty are able to power down and isolate the solar system from the grid, so that students can dissect the panel hardware, inspect and test components, then reassemble and re-commission the system. The panels are outfitted with module level power electronics in the form of DC optimizers, so each panel has its own unique data communications signal, with data streamed to the cloud and accessible in near real time for analysis by students. The system produces roughly 2,400,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, eliminating the consumption of 1.9 million pounds of coal, and providing greenhouse gas benefits similar to 2200 acres of healthy forest. The design considerations for this system have been featured in CREATE peer reviewed publications, and in a virtual tour produced for the American Society for Engineering Education. The college also documented the entire process, including conception, design, planning, procurement, construction, commissioning, and validation of the system, and bundled this information into a Solar on Schools Toolkit for use by other schools pursuing solar projects. The toolkit is available for download from the CREATE website.
Building on the success of the Truax solar project, the college has executed five additional solar PV installations at its regional campuses, including a 150-kW system at the college’s Early Learning campus, 150 kW at its Fort Atkinson campus, 135 kW at its Watertown campus, 125 kW at its South Madison STEM Academy campus, and 100 kW at its Reedsburg campus. These projects have expanded solar educational opportunities across the college’s service territory. The Fort Atkinson and Watertown campuses are now net-zero electricity facilities, thus making Madison College the first institution of higher education in Wisconsin to achieve this accomplishment. Madison College was recently presented the EPA Green Power Leadership Award in recognition of the school’s renewable energy education and power generation efforts.
The Renewable Energy Certificates at Madison college are designed to complement education or work experience in traditional related fields such as construction trades, architecture, electronics, industrial maintenance, and various fields of engineering. Students pursuing Associate Degrees in these traditional fields can earn a Renewable Energy Certificate to further their education, thereby giving them an added distinction when seeking employment. Students seeking to transfer to complete four-year degrees in STEM fields can earn the Renewable Energy Certificate while incorporating practical applications into their undergraduate degree. Likewise, individuals who are already gainfully employed in traditional fields can complete a certificate to expand their skill set to include Renewable Energy technology in their portfolio of expertise. As a result, the Renewable Energy program at Madison College appeals to a wide cross-section of students. This diversity of work experience and career goals makes for a rich learning experience in the classroom. Several of our courses are offered online, or in hybrid formats, and some are also offered as 2 or 3 day short-courses. These flexible formats are helpful to students with family and work obligations, who otherwise may not be able to attend school on a full-time basis.
Beginning Spring 2023, Madison College became a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) PV Associate Provider. Once students complete our Solar Photovoltaic Technology class and the Solar Installation course, they can register for the NABCEP exam and earn the PV Associate credential.
The Madison College Renewable Energy Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) Advisory Board includes roughly 50 members from the community, plus an additional 6-10 representatives from various areas of the college. BILT members represent a broad range of renewable energy disciplines, with a plurality associated with the solar photovoltaic sector. We also have representatives from both investor owned and publicly owned electrical utilities, from state agencies and regulatory bodies, from municipal government, and from the University of Wisconsin scientific research community.
Internships and apprenticeships are not required as part of the program. However, both internships and independent study projects may be completed if a student chooses to do so, and the credits can be applied towards earning the Renewable Energy Certificate. Likewise, many students who are already employed through the college’s electrical apprenticeship program have enrolled in renewable energy coursework to complement their apprenticeship education and training.
Madison College is pleased to offer Energy Institutes for Educators as part of the NSF CREATE National Center. We invite any interested teachers to join us in the upcoming year to get some hands-on experience working with our facilities and interacting with our instructors and students. For more information visit the Events tab on the CREATE website.