Device that captures solar power is new teaching tool at Waubonsee

By on November 14, 2010

Photo: With the mid-day sun shining, workers install a photovoltaic array near Weigel Hall on Waubonsee Community College’s Sugar Grove Campus. The array, which will consist of 24 solar panels when completed, was paid for by a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Waubonsee will offer its first Introduction to Photovoltaic Systems course this spring. Courtesy Photo

Sugar Grove—With daylight savings time now at an end, sunlight is more valuable than ever. And Waubonsee Community College is poised to discover another value of it with the completion of its photovoltaic array, which consists of a series of panels used to capture solar power.

While primarily designed and installed as a teaching tool for students in the college’s new photovoltaic certificate programs, the array has the added benefit of providing supplementary electricity to the campus.

Installed on the north side of the college’s Sugar Grove Campus, the ground-mounted array’s physical footprint measures 33 feet wide by 10 feet tall, but its environmental and economic benefits loom even larger.

“A photovoltaic system generates clean, renewable energy and electricity,” said Gregg Erickson, Waubonsee’s renewable energy technologies instructor. “Not only do these systems help save the environment, they can help property owners save money on their electric bills and see a full return on their investment in 15 to 20 years.”

Waubonsee’s photovoltaic system was funded by a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. In addition to the outdoor array, the grant is also being used to fund 12 indoor lab stations and a mock-up of a roof-mounted array system.

While the system will produce supplementary electricity to help power the campus’ Weigel Hall, the real benefit is having a local workforce trained for increasingly popular “green” jobs.

The college’s three-semester-hour Photovoltaic Basics Certificate of Achievement will teach students the basic principles of photovoltaic energy and industry safety practices, preparing them for entry-level careers in the field. The more advanced Photovoltaic Certificate of Achievement teaches students to install and maintain photovoltaic systems.

Two sections of the “Introduction to Photovoltaic Systems” course will be offered for the first time this spring semester. One will meet on Tuesday afternoons, 2 to 5:30 p.m., with the other meeting on Thursday nights, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. All of Waubonsee’s photovoltaic coursework is aligned with the standards of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

NABCEP Certified Photovoltaic Installer Tom DeBates, owner of Habi-Tek Renewable Energy Systems in Geneva, is working on the installation for the college. Since starting renewable energy work in 2001, Habi-Tek has installed photovoltaic systems for a variety of facilities, including the Chicago Botanical Gardens, Wheaton high schools and a number of private residences.

For more information on Waubonsee’s photovoltaic program and other renewable energy technologies courses, visit or call (630) 466-7900, ext. 2319.

Tom DeBates (right), owner of Habi-Tek Renewable Energy Systems in Geneva, places a solar panel with the help of another worker. Habi-Tek installs a photovoltaic array on the north side of Waubonsee Community College’s Sugar Grove Campus. The array will be used both as a teaching tool in new photovoltaic coursework debuting this spring as well as a way to help power the campus’ Weigel Hall.     						 Courtesy Photo