Twelve Students participated and will gradate from Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s first ever Solar Camp and receive their Solar Photovoltaic Technician Certification to compliment their Electrician degrees. Here is what Christine had to say about her experience in the inaugural program.
How did you hear about Solar Camp?
Minnesota West actually sent someone to Ridgewater College to my class and said “Hey we’re doing this program it would be the three weeks after graduation, it is going to be free, it will let you stay in the dorms…If you’re interested email me.” and so I was like, “Yeah, heck yeah.”
What made you choose to join?
The deciding factor was the price, not going to lie. It was an education that I could get. It would only be three weeks, it would be free and it’s in a field that’s rapidly expanding that I know is only going to get bigger. It’s knowledge that I know is going to be useful to me in the future.
What has your experience been like?
“I loved it, first of all. There was a lot of building arrays, which I actually didn’t expect to get to make as many as we did. I thought we would probably get to build one or two types. We built four of them, we built a ground-mount, we built the residential roof mount, and we built two of the commercial roof mounts. We got to do a lot of different things and so that was awesome! Now, the first couple of days where we just sat in class and we learned about code not as fun, but it’s also very important knowledge. I’m grateful to have gotten to sit through it and dig into the code that applies specifically to solar because that’s also incredibly important when you’re in the field.”
What have been some challenges you’ve faced in the program, if any?
“There wasn’t anything that really surprised me that I didn’t expect. Challenges in the program? No not with the program itself. Nothing was too hard, there were some tools that I needed that I didn’t have but there was always someone that did. That was no big deal. There were a couple of people that I clashed with but that’s going to happen on every job. That’s always going to happen, not everybody gets along with everybody.”
What excites you the most about solar and the energy industry?
“What excites me most about solar? It’s almost like magic because there’s no moving parts in these arrays, they literally just sit there and generate power. That’s why you have a warranty of like 25 to 30 years with these modules and because there are no moving parts that can wear out, that to me is amazing. The other thing is that it never runs out as long as the sun is in the sky it’s there. If the Sun is going to rise tomorrow, you’re going to get power. Those are probably the things that excite me most about solar because you think about some other forms of energy production you have your wind, you have just a conventional diesel generator and those generate power and that’s great, but they have moving parts that wear out. So, you don’t get nearly as much useful life out of them. That excites me most about solar, how long it lasts. That’s one of the reasons why there’s a lot of code when it comes to solar. It has to be built to last. It is supposed to last just as long as the panels. No moving parts you stick it in there and forget it and it just sits there and generates power like magic.”
What’s next for you?
“I work for a residential contractor and so my plan is to start working for him full-time. He has done solar in the past on some of his clients’ houses and so there’s probably going to be some solar projects involved. He’s not like a 100% solar contractor but he does do it. So that’s my plan to go and work for him. I love that company and I love the guys that I work with and so when I went back to school, I was like, “Well, hey I got a four-day school week. I do have Mondays off if you want me to, I can work for you on Mondays? He was like “Yeah for sure let’s do it”. Then I got toward graduation, and he was like “So you’re going to be working full-time after that right?”, Yep! Then I had to tell him I’m going to Solar Camp for three weeks. He said “Okay, go for it and do it, that’ll be good.” He wins, I win, everybody wins.”
What advice do you have for future Solar Campers/Students?
“When it comes to people who are considering this program, I would just say hang in there for those first couple of days because after that you get to jump in there and start doing it and it’s awesome. That and make sure you stay on top of the online work. “
Christine graduated this Spring from Ridgewater College in Hutcinson with an Electrician A.A.S. and will receive her Solar Photovoltaic Technician Certification from Minnesota West Community and Technical College on June 7, 2022.