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MCC Goes Solar

MADISONVILLE, KY—With limiting energy consumption and hands-on teaching in mind, members and students of the Madisonville Community College (MCC) installed several new energy efficient solar panels today, November 12th.

As AIIT instructor Jake Hildebrant explained to iSurf News, “MCC received a grant last year as part of the power plant technician option of the AIIT—Advanced Industrial Integrated Technology—program to purchase 5 wind turbines, solar panels, and a biomass processor.”

Hildebrant added that the purpose of the course is also to display the integration of alternative energy in the power grid.

“I am the Option Facilitator for the Power Plant option, mainly because I worked 8 years at TVA as an Instrument Controls Technician before teaching at MCC,” noted Hildebrant.

Along with help from MCC students Marie Cline (AIT power plant student) and Raymond Littlepage (AIT multi-skilled student), as well as David Alsip (AIT Faculty member)—all of which can be seen within the photo on the lower right-hand side of this page—MCC now boasts a total of 15 solar panels that are capable of producing 3.125 kW at their “peak load.”

“The brackets that hold the panels on the roof are a new type that do not physically bolt on to the roof; they are weighted down with concrete blocks,” said Hildebrant. “We are very appreciative of the fact that Ruby Concrete of Madisonville donated all of the concrete blocks for the college.”

Additionally, Hildebrant mentioned that Madisonville’s Ruby Concrete has continually provided support to MCC students with projects in the past.

In regards to other benefits the Community College will receive—and how they will actually receive it—after installing the new panels, Hildebrant said that, “The solar panels will be grid connected, meaning that they will go through invertors and will be wired directly into our electrical panel. This eliminates the hassle of having a large battery bank that is required for off the grid systems.”

Other than saving on traditional energy consumption overall, Hildebrant stated that the solar panels may also bring in additional electrical “credit” to the college if more energy is produced than is used. This line of thought follows a statewide mandate, which requires that a “net metering” meter be installed by the respective area’s electric company when active solar panels are established. Once the “net meter” is in place, the electric company is able to monitor whether the panels are producing extra or unused power throughout a given period of time. According to the mandate, the production of this surplus of power is rewarded with customer credit.

To view the complete mandate, visit the following link: http://kysolar.org/net-metering.

Hildebrant also explained that MCC students benefit from the panels installation as well. 

“The students in the Power Plant Tech Program learned how to install these panels with this project,” said Hildebrant. “Additionally, all of the lectures for the course are online so that this program is very flexible to students. We have a flexible lab that allows students to schedule their lab on their time for the classes that have labs. Although this is not the only alternative energy class offered in Kentucky, it is the only Power Plant Technician degree available in the state.”

Other than working with TVA and currently teaching at MCC, Hildebrant noted that he recently completed a two week long training program at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) in Cape Canaveral Florida over the summer, which, as he explained, provides faculty with the best practices for teaching solar in their courses.

“One training course was for Solar Photovoltaic, which is what we installed today, and the other was for solar thermal, which is for heating water,” said Hildebrant. “The trainings were very helpful with this project, and the instructors at FSEC are very supportive.”

“I have been very impressed with the level of support that has been shown to me by the administration here at MCC,” stated Hildebrant. “They have been very encouraging and have helped greatly in completing this project.  I feel very blessed to be a part of the team here at MCC.”

Luke Short
iSurf News
Information and photos provided by Jake Hildebrant

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