Students in the Colby Community College Sustainable/Renewable Energy program are installing a 400-watt solar array at the college farm east of Colby. The structure is being completed during several “boot camps” that began in 2014 and will continue until the project is complete.

The boot camps are part of the two-year curriculum that provide hands-on training in both solar and wind energy projects.

Program courses are delivered in two formats – online, or in a hybrid model for students preferring more “face-to-face” contact with the instructor. Online students meet five times per year for boot camps, and students in the hybrid classes meet every week

“I like real-world labs, not mock-ups,” said program director Derek Reilley. “With the industry growing like it is, students need to get their hands dirty so they can get the experience.”

Enrollment comes from multiple states. “Besides Kansas, we’ve had students from Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado,” Reilly said.

“The online option is great for students that can’t physically be here every week, or even for those in the area who work full time. Most of them can dedicate a few Saturdays to be at the boot camps for training.”

The program is comprehensive, with a focus on residential and small to medium-sized business solar and wind systems that produce up to 50 kilowatts.

In addition to learning how a small wind or solar photovoltaic system can be connected to the electric grid through a power provider, students also experience building a system that operates independently (off-grid). “We teach both off-grid solar and grid-tied solar and wind systems,” Reilly explained.

After completing the program students can enter the workforce or transfer the credits towards a bachelor’s degree. “CCC and Kansas State University have an articulation agreement for a degree option that’s offered online,” he concluded.

Because of the schedule flexibility, the Sustainable/Renewable Energy program has start dates in the fall, spring, or summer. Enrollment information is available by contacting Reilly or the CCC Admissions office.