A consortium of solar industry experts today reached agreement with Bahamas Technical and Vocational Training Institute (BTVI) to donate a state of the art solar system and to develop a curriculum for students leading to certification in solar energy, a field projected to grow at breakneck speed without local available technical expertise to meet demand.
Bahamas poised to be a hub for solar technology training
“We are really pleased to have someone of the background and expertise of Philip Holdom to come into BTVI and do this,” said Robert W. Robertson, Ph.D., President of the training institute with some 2,000 students on the Nassau campus. “This is a trade school and this is exactly the kind of partnership that provides us with the ability to train those who want to advance their skills and others who want to train to fill needed positions. There is a lot of growth in this area and we expect there will be a great response to the offering.”
According to Mr. Holdom, founder of Alternative Power Supply and co-founder of Sustainable Energy Bahamas, recent policy changes and advances in solar power systems are driving up demand.
Wide range of certifications being offered
“The new National Energy Legislation has opened up the possibility of using multiple solar technologies for the private and public sector. Whether off-grid, grid tie or grid interactive technologies are used, there is an immediate need for people trained in renewable energy, science, math, and system programming. Levels of certification will range from basic solar theory and installation practices (101) to intermediate and advanced courses in renewable energy design, installation and programming (201 & 301),” said Holdom who installed his first solar systems 27 years ago in Rum Cay and Long Island and is widely considered the leading solar energy expert in the country.
Holdom’s companies are now part of the consortium that includes Sustainable Energy Ltd., a Bahamian company, and together the consortium has a combined 50-year installation history in renewable energy with 370 MW of solar installs between The Bahamas and Europe.
Safeguarding the renewables sector
As the movement toward solar power gains momentum, one of the most critical needs will be the training and certification of Ministry of Work inspectors and electricians, noted BTVI’s Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Leroy Sumner. BTVI officials and Holdom noted with concern that solar systems are too often being installed incorrectly by untrained persons and are resulting in unsafe and sometimes dangerous installations for residential or commercial customers, a real concern for BPL.
“At the end of the day, the desire is for the solar experience to be a good experience,” said BTVI Chairman and former BEC General Manager Kevin Basden, a man seeped in traditional energy supply sources and now welcoming the trend toward renewables. “What I see is a new horizon, a whole new market, but we have to make sure we get it right.”
Getting it right, according to Sustainable Energy co-founder and CEO Zev Crystal who was not present at the September 18 meeting, means new jobs and energy independence in what may be the fastest growing energy sector in the Bahamas.
“Through this training program and the certification by BTVI, we will be able to plug youth directly into jobs because we will have skilled solar practitioners and safe installers. We will have people who know how to install, inspect, operate, program and monitor state of the art renewable energy systems,” said Crystal. “It is all about energy independence and job creation and this partnership with BTVI will help us to achieve that.”
Courses begin mid-October
For Holdom, the agreement reached today was the culmination of a 10-year campaign to bring about clear legislation, to create a renewable energy standard in the Bahamas and to find a way to train Bahamians to install, operate and maintain solar systems.
“This process will accelerate our nation towards an energy source that reduces costs, improves quality and consistency of power distribution and is much gentler on the environment,” said Holdom who will train the trainers at BTVI.
The first course is slated to start by mid-October and will provide students hands on experience including installing a low voltage solar system from start to finish, and basic knowledge of how renewable energy systems work. Students who complete that course will be able to take more advanced courses in higher voltage systems, design, safety components and system programming. Graduates will have Solar Certifications that enable employers to gauge knowledge and skill level.
Source: Diane Phillips & Associates