The aphorism “it takes a spark to ignite a fire” is an example of the transfer of energy. Students in the Salt Lake Community College’s (SLCC) Energy Management (EM) program of the school’s Green Academy are sparking some positive energy for its program by drawing notice from some of the Utah State’s governing bodies directly involved with the state’s energy and economic development.
Select students from the current class held two special meetings recently at the Office of Environmental Quality with top officials from the Utah Office of Energy Development (OED) to learn what is happening on the regional energy front, as well as strengthen the Green Academy program’s position as a vital educational player in the state’s energy economy landscape. As a result, several of the students will be participating as specially invited volunteers in Governor Herbert’s and OED’s upcoming Energy Development Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City on Feb. 15, 2012. The event is sold out with an attendance projected close to 1,000 people.
“Our main objective is to let all the energy people, especially those in the [OED] office and the Governor’s Office–everyone that is involved in energy–that Salt Lake Community College is involved in energy,” said Debbie Reese, a current Green Academy student who organized the two special sessions with the Utah officials. “We have some excellent teachers–and sometimes, we get overlooked, but we are out there and very interested, want to help and really be involved.”
Last March, the Utah Governor’s Office released “Energy Initiatives & Imperatives: Utah’s 10-Year Strategic Energy Plan” that was result of a several month effort from a task force and several subcommittees to develop Governor Herbert’s Utah Energy Initiative. The Office of Energy Development was created out of this plan.
According to the document, one goal of the State is to align the main research universities, namely the University of Utah, Utah State University and Brigham Young University, into a powerful energy research and development triangle of innovative leaders in energy economy. This places other institutions mentioned, including Salt Lake Community College, in an alternate category to fill “an essential role in developing and maintaining a technically-trained Utah workforce” with curricula that focus primarily on safety, regulatory, production and technical certifications that develop a stream of support personnel for researchers and engineers in the energy industry.
The proactive initiative on behalf of the Green Academy students, however, may work towards expanding that three-sided view and not let SLCC’s program be overlooked.
“Yes, we have the research “triangle,” it’s not the research “square” which may be reflective of the problem,” said Jeffrey Barrett, Renewable Energy Coordinator for OED.
In early January, Barrett contacted Elisha Suazo, the EM Program Coordinator for SLCC, and made available an opportunity only for SLCC’s Energy Management students to apply for a semester-long internship in the OED office.
The internship, which was filled the first week of February, includes assisting OED in reviewing and processing Utah Renewable Energy Systems Tax Credit applications for those individuals that installed energy technologies, such as solar photovoltaic panels or geothermal heat pumps, over the past tax year. Networking with dozens of energy industry contractors and manufacturers to glean a detailed understanding of renewable energy systems installation, and to participate in OED’s meetings and programs are other components to the internship.
“We understand that the [SLCC] energy program is more robust, so it makes sense to collaborate more,” said Barrett.
For the degree, students are required to complete a minimum 200-hour internship in the industry as a capstone course before graduating. The internship is paid with funds from a grant program issued to SLCC.
SLCC’s accelerated 18-month EM program is part of the Continuing Education Department and leads to a full-credit Associate of Applied Science degree, but the Green Academy also offers certificate and other training programs in sustainability, solar photovoltaic installation, green retrofitting, smart grid and compressed natural gas conversion for vehicles training.
The EM program at SLCC is currently in its fourth cohort class since its inauguration in 2009. Many of the students enter the program from diverse industries, accounting or commercial printing for instance.
“Sign in and get involved. We could be looking at internships from this,” said Stanley McOmber to his fellow EM students for attending the upcoming Energy Development Summit. McOmber, who has interest in solar photovoltaic technology, is but one EM student registered to volunteer at the Summit.
Fitting it is that the site for the Summit is under the roof of the Salt Lake Palace Convention Center: it boasts the largest solar photovoltaic roof installation in Utah, and the largest of any convention center in the nation.
It is clear that taking initiative in getting involved will make the difference in the student experience and lead to rewarding opportunities.
“When I was starting out in the industry, I worked for five years cold calling people and getting to know who the players were in the business,” said Tim Loftis, who instructs the Alternative Energy Technologies class for the EM program and who is the Salt Lake City Economic Development Manager for Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah).
EDCUtah is a public and private partnership that works with government and industry to attract and grow competitive, high-value companies and spur the expansion of local Utah businesses. Loftis, who holds a special interest in renewable energy, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurism, added, “getting out there will pay off. Trust me. Now the people I was calling are calling me.”