Pueblo Community College is partnering with NextEra Energy, the world’s largest utility company, to install 52 photovotaic solar panels and establish a learning laboratory for students in the promising field of renewable energy.
The 20-kilowatt solar farm will be located next to PCC’s Gorsich Advanced Technology Center. NextEra’s initial donation, panel installation and training on campus is valued at $50,000 to $75,000. An added bonus is that the solar panels will help power the technology center and offset a small percentage of PCC’s energy costs.
“The students will learn not only how to build, maintain and operate the facility, but how to analyze the data it will generate,” NextEra representative David Gil announced to a full audience in the Gorsich center.
The educational aim is to help PCC develop degreed, skilled workers for the renewable energy industry, which boasts fast-growing jobs, such as solar panel installers and wind technicians.
Former Interior Secretary and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, a champion of renewable energy, was on hand for the on-campus announcement. “This is the first day of a $1 billion, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Southern Colorado,” the San Luis Valley native said.
Xcel Energy plans to replace Pueblo’s Comanche 1 and 2 coal-fired plants with $2.5 billion of investment in renewable energy production.
PCC President Patty Erjavec welcomed NextEra, saying: “We are so excited, so pleased and so humbled that you sought us out to be your community college, leading the initiative in the whole workforce development associated with this absolutely fabulous project.
“My team has already begun to explore the realm of educational possibilities this learning lab will afford our students and we are eager to unleash their creativity and innovative prowess.”
PCC focuses on developing skills and knowledge of value to students’ futures.