Campers arrived in Canby, Minnesota on May 14, 2022, excited for three weeks of sleeping in residence halls, shared meals in the cafeteria, and full agenda of projects to complete. These campers are college students and electricians looking to earn their Solar Photovoltaic Technician Certification from Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Minnesota West. This flagship project was created to offer the curriculum to electricians in a hands-on intensive experience. The hope is maximizing the value, time, and delivery for students enrolled in Minnesota State’s electrician programs.  

Solar camps students in front of solar array
Solar Camp students and instructors in front of a ground mount solar array.

As a leader in energy in Southwest MN, Minnesota West was the perfect location for students to gain experience working with equipment and has much of the educational infrastructure in place. Judy Tebben, Dean of Customized Training and Technical Education, and Judy Drown, Electrician and Solar Faculty, developed the customized offering knowing students often could not find time to add certifications while completing their robust course load in electrician programs. The explosive growth in solar industry careers and growing interest in green energy from students, consumers, and industry put Solar Camp on a fast track to implementation.  

After careful planning and the successful recruitment of students from Minnesota State campuses, the Solar Assessment course began in March. Utilizing online delivery and the weeks after graduation to implement the program maximized student engagement and kept the window open for employment opportunities.  

Drown and Tim Zinniel, adjunct Faculty and owner of Zinniel Electric, led the students through the lab courses held in Canby beginning in late May. In the three weeks of lab courses students spent 128 hours building and exploring the unique challenges and opportunities of becoming a solar installer, the code and regulations behind the generation method, and physically constructing, deconstructing, and operating four different solar mount systems. The Solar Energy Construction Projects lab as well as the Photovoltaic Systems Lab were completed on site.

Minnesota West graduated 12 students from their first ever Solar Camp Certificate program on Tuesday June 7, 2022 and hopes to continue to offer the program into the future at little to no cost to students with community and industry support. 

We had the opportunity to get to know two of the students during the Solar Camp Celebration, the program’s showcase event for community and industry partners on June 1, 2022.  View their stories in our student spotlights below.  

Christine’s Solar Camp Student Spotlight

Christine and Devon shared their Solar Camp experience with the us. You can click to read each of their stories.

Christine- Student Spotlight

Devon- Student Spotlight

Devon’s Solar Camp Student Spotlight

Solar Camp was made possible by Carl Perkins Grant, Minnesota West Community and Technical College Foundation, Minnesota State Energy Center of Excellence, Blattner Company, Avon, MN; Border States Electric, Marshall, MN; Campus Grill, Canby MN; ECHO; Electric Supply, Worthington, MN; IronRidge, Hayward, CA; Minnesota West – Canby & Jackson Campus Student Senate; Otter Tail Power Company, Morris, MN; and UFP Minneota, LLC, Minneota, MN