Renewable Energy Technologies

Renewable energy sources are supplying an ever-increasing amount of our electrical power and our heating and cooling needs. These include photovoltaic systems that convert energy from the sun into electricity and turbines that generate electricity from wind energy. There are also geothermal systems that use the stable underground temperatures and a process called heat transfer to warm and cool residential and commercial buildings. In addition, there are solar-thermal systems that are commonly used to heat water for swimming pools and are used to heat indoor air and water for residential or commercial use. 

Waubonsee is offering courses to prepare students to design, install, maintain and repair these systems. We currently offer photovoltaic and geothermal courses and will be expanding the curriculum to include small wind turbines and solar-thermal heating soon.

Photovoltaic (PV) Program
Waubonsee has a series of three photovoltaic courses. These courses comply with the standards set by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). After successfully completing all three courses, students earn our Photovoltaic Certificate of Achievement and are eligible to take the Photovoltaic (PV) Entry Level Certificate of Knowledge exam offered by NABCEP.

There is not mandatory prerequisite for the first PV course. In these courses, students learn PV theory and the basics of electricity that pertain to PV systems. They learn about the components that make up a PV system and then practice installing and wiring those components in our brand new photovoltaics lab. Students also learn how to conduct a site assessment, the first step in designing a PV system. Assessments judge the suitability of a site for a PV installation based on several factors, most important being exposure to the sun throughout the year. Students use modern equipment and computer software to conduct assessments. Using the data from site assessments, students learn to design real world systems. They also learn how to install those systems. Emphasis is placed on maintaining and troubleshooting PV systems.

Waubonsee's 5 kilowatt photovoltaic system provides students with a unique learning opportunity. This fully functional system supplies electrical power to Sugar Grove's Weigel Hall, where the PV lab is located. Students see firsthand how atmospheric conditions and the changing seasons affect electrical output.

The Geothermal Program
Waubonsee offers a 3-credit hour course on geothermal systems, which has become a popular elective for our heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) students. Upon successful completion of this course, students earn the Geothermal Basics Certificate of Achievement. We recommend that students a solid background in HVAC before taking this course. They should have completed the major part of our HVAC program or a similar program of study at another institution. Alternatively, they should have professional experience as an HVAC technician or contractor.

Our students conduct geothermal site assessments, select a geothermal systems, and practice installation techniques. They also learn how to design a system from scratch. Waubonsee has a fully functional geothermal system, which helps heat and cool the HVAC lab and provides students with unique learning opportunities. Using our system, students must demonstrate the proper protocol for flushing and purging a heat pump and perform a heat pump system start-up and checkout.