NCCETC starts 2024 with a new training course: Renewable Energy Project Development
NCCETC’s training team is excited to announce a new course offering starting in January 2024. Renewable Energy Project Development (REPD) is an updated and expanded course based on the former Certificate in Renewable Energy Management (CREM). New modules have been added to allow participants to delve deeper into more components of the renewable energy project development process. Additionally, the course will now be offered completely virtually, removing the required three days of in-person instruction that was originally included in CREM. Senior Clean Energy Training Coordinator, Brittany Santore, explains that the training team “hopes that this format will open the course to a wider audience and allow working professionals more flexibility to complete the course on their own schedules.”
Similarly to CREM, the REPD course teaches participants to have an overall understanding of existing renewable energy technologies and their applications; how policies affect the health of the renewable energy industry; and the ability to analyze the financial viability of a project.
Along with these skills, the course covers policies that influence the current market, multiple financial models related to project funding, what needs to be considered when developing a project, and how to engage with various stakeholders and the public.
As part of the course, students apply their learning by developing a feasibility report on a hypothetical renewable energy project of their choice. Within this project, students determine the renewable technology most appropriate for the project site; what policies and incentives will impact the success of the project; and use financial models to determine the financial viability of the project. Broadening this in the new REPD course, students will also include zoning and permitting considerations; how to engage stakeholders and the local community; and what operation and maintenance will be needed over the lifecycle of the project.
Students who participated in the final CREM course, provided insights about their experience, what they gained from the course, and how their various backgrounds impacted their decision to enroll.
Buddhi Athauda registered for the course so that he could learn more about renewable energy, as he recognized potential for growth in the field, especially on the East Coast. After serving in leadership positions in technology companies and working as an ambassador for many years, Athauda was looking for new opportunities that would allow him to give back to the world. He described the class as a “great eye opener” and was able to connect topics back to his experience in other roles. For the final project, Athauda looked into starting a solar installation company in North Carolina, and how renewable energy can affect consumers. He found that the different packaging and marketing strategies currently used by companies make it difficult for consumers to understand the technology and benefits. He is passionate about creating a way for renewable energy to benefit the consumer, and to ensure that they aren’t discouraged by marketing tactics and high prices. In his project, he also focused on economic development and considered what incentives could be offered for manufacturers to come to North Carolina. Athauda says he “wants to see what he can do in this area to make the world a better place while being in an industry that makes [him] happy”.
Another student, Hans Castro, came into the course with a background in civil engineering and eleven years of experience in the solar industry. Residing in New Jersey, he registered for the course to focus on renewable energy in North Carolina as he is in the process of changing jobs, and knew the Southeast United States has growing opportunities in this field. Castro enjoyed the modules covering solar policy and finance, diplomacy, and learning what it takes to develop a solar project. He says, “even for someone like me with solar industry experience, it really had good information” and recognized that taking this course would be a valuable experience for someone interested in advancing in, or making a transition to, the solar industry.
In the updated version of the course, REPD pushes participants to think outside the typical designs for a renewable energy project. One of the new modules, titled “Principles of Low-Impact Solar Siting and Design,” is presented by Liz Kalies, Lead Renewable Energy Scientist for the North America Regional Office of The Nature Conservancy. This presentation discusses the benefits of the mitigation hierarchy of development, a set of guidelines to avoid or minimize impacts to the land and wildlife when developing a solar site. Decisions such as the orientation of the rows of the panels, using wildlife fencing instead of chain link fencing, or planting wildflowers instead of laying gravel can help to maintain wildlife corridors through a site. While each site is unique, considering these options can have lasting impacts on the biodiversity in the area throughout the lifecycle of the project.
Another presentation, Grazing for Vegetation Management on Solar Sites, presented by Andrew Weaver and Johnny Rogers with NC State University Cooperative Extension and Camren Maierle with the American Lamb Board, discusses the benefits to the farmer, solar developer, community, and land by using sheep to graze and manage vegetation on solar sites as opposed to traditional mowing techniques.
When asked about what sets this course apart, Brittany says that, “the real strength of the course and benefit to the students is the variety of presenters. These are industry professionals from both public and private sectors and from very different career paths. Their perspectives and experience offers value in a way that cannot be captured from one person. It also exhibits how being employed in the renewable energy industry can mean more than just being an installer, designer, or a developer. Students are exposed to professionals that work for the Utility Commission, are Outreach Managers, fly drones for a living, or raise sheep. Yet they all have their roles to play when it comes to developing renewable energy projects. Being exposed to the project development process alongside all these potential career paths, as demonstrated by our talented presenters, is what makes me really excited about this course.”
After completing this course, students will receive a Certificate of Completion from NC State University, and will have completed one third of the requirements to earn a Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma. This course also counts towards several of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certifications and qualifies for continuing education credits from the NC Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors (NCBEEC).
The first REPD course will start on January 8, 2024 and will run until March 9th, 2024. To register for this course, click here or visit http://go.ncsu.edu/repd. For more information about this course and other NCCETC offerings, please visit our course information page.