Solar workshop teaches students new skills for careers in alternative energy

Advanced Transportation Technology & Energy Director Gerald Bernstein teaches both students and working professionals how to install solar panels at the Evans campus in the Bayview, at the first solar power workshop held at City College. CLIVE WALKER / GUARDSMAN

By Graham Henderson
Staff Writer

The first in a series of solar panel workshops which will provide training and a general overview of the physical and electrical installation of the panels took place at the Evans campus on Sept. 20.
The workshops will teach students to install photovoltaic solar panels on a mock-up model of a roof complete with shingles and rafters. Even on a cloudy day, students were able to power a fan with the assembled solar array.

“This is a regular full roof,” said workshop instructor Gerry Bernsteine. “These panels are live. You put enough [panels] together and they will shock you.”

The physical installation of the panels is straightforward, said Max Parsley, who instructed the electrical portion of the workshop.

The solar panels and installation hardware were donated by Noel Cotter, a former City College student and owner of Luminalt, a company that installs solar systems all over the Bay Area said Parsley. The setup students train with is very similar to a professionally installed solar panel system.

A single panel costs only around $500, but a typical setup to power an entire house requires between 30 and 50 panels and costs between $20,000-$35,000. “A system like this, no matter how much it costs, will pay off,” said Parsley.

Students of all ages, from college freshmen to senior citizens, attended the workshop. Many of them using their cell phones to snap pictures of the installation for future reference.

“I’d been looking for a class on how to install solar [panels] for a long time,” said City College student Morgan Jensen. “I have a much better understanding now. Actually physically seeing it helps so much.”
Jensen said she would like to install a solar system in her home, but would like to do it herself to save money and because she feels that she would pay more attention to detail than an installer.

Software engineer Feisal Siddiqi found the class while searching for solar workshops on Craigslist. “I’m actively preparing myself for an alternate career…just in case,” he said.

The Evans campus is planning to offer another workshop towards the end of the semester, but the date has not yet been set. A full course on photovoltaic installation is scheduled for the spring 2009 semester. Two sections of the course will be offered, but the course is so popular it already has a wait list, Parsley said.

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