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Merced College launches solar power program
UC Merced, local businesses partner with college for learning experiences
MC solar pic 1
A Merced College storage shed was recently outfitted with an off-grid solar panel system. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

The Merced College Electronics Technology program will be adding a solar panel installation class to its curriculum next fall with hopes of eventually creating an entire certificate or degree program in coming years.

Last November, the college received an $80,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for two classes, curriculum development and solar training supplies.

“The goal is to enhance our existing electrical program to give electrician students skill sets for solar installation,” said Solar Program Coordinator Bill Walls.

This fall’s class will include training on safety procedures, solar installation, and solar panel and system components.

“The first class the students will have to learn the parts, assembly and safety. Then we go from there to our next class the following semester and go into the specific three solar panel systems on the market,” explained Walls.

Solar students will have the opportunity to work with the University of California Merced Environmental Engineering program on current and future solar projects at the former Castle Air Force Base. In addition, APG Solar owner Brent Jerner will offer labor and instructional support for the program.

“We are here to let the college know what we in the solar industry need from workers and to show students what they could be doing in this field with field trips and hands on learning,” said Jerner.

According to Walls, GRID Alternatives, a non-profit alternative energy program for low-income homes and communities, has signed on to eventually offer internships for Merced College students.

Walls said that solar panel installers and technicians are in demand.

“This is one of the best places to have solar because the Central Valley gets 300 plus days a year of full sun. Installers are already in demand and this solar program is access to the pathway for jobs,” he said.

Merced College’s participation in the NSF grant includes membership in the newly established California Regional Consortium for Engineering Advances in Technical Education (CREATE).

Registration for Merced College’s fall semester is currently open to all returning and new students.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.