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Lanier Tech offers solar photovoltaic class
Sponsors helped shape Milton lab
solar 3
From left, students Ray Haygood and Bently Harris talk to instructor Bill Silva. The students are learning to install solar photovoltaic systems at the Milton campus of Lanier Tech. - photo by Submitted
The Milton campus of Lanier Technical College soon will welcome its second class of students for training to install solar photovoltaic, or PV, systems.

The technology converts sunlight to usable electricity for homes and commercial buildings.

Solar instructor Bill Silva said the class is the only entry-level PV installer course in the state offering certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

“Lanier Tech really wanted to offer that here,” he said. “We have corporate sponsors who are leaders in the industry who provided the brand-new, state-of-the-art equipment. It’s pretty nice.”

Silva, who also serves as president of United Renewable Energy, was asked by the college to teach the course as the first of many steps toward offering a full degree in renewable energy.

His company delivers renewable energy systems to businesses and homes, focusing on solar electric generation systems.

The business also helped found the college’s solar PV lab.

“We wanted to donate something to the program as well as to involve the industry,” Silva said. “We engaged these companies and we were able to build up a base of corporate sponsors.

“The reason I did that is because I knew we could build a state-of-the-art solar PV lab, but we needed to do it with the budget we had.”

In addition to United Renewable Energy, Suniva, SMA, Solectria and Direct Power and Water also contributed equipment for use in the program, which began this year.

Russell Vandiver, Lanier Tech’s acting president, expressed gratitude for the program’s “many high-caliber corporate sponsors.”

“Their generosity allows us to provide a high caliber training lab to students interested in learning to install solar PV power sources,” he said in a statement.

Silva said students come from various backgrounds, including some who are already in the construction trade or renewable energy field.

About half the class time focuses on lectures and learning background technology and design. The other half is spent in the lab, where students get hands-on experience using the equipment.

Silva said he has a vested interest in the class, especially as the solar energy industry continues to grow in Georgia.

“It’s really important to me that we have qualified installers out there delivering quality products,” he said. “I want to make sure that we have quality training for them that provides hands-on training and in-depth knowledge.”