By Xubi Wilson
Solar and Water Conservation were two of the first sustainability programs established at Santa Fe Community College. They were developed in response to the City of Santa Fe’s 2005 Economic Development Plan: Cultivating Santa Fe’s Future Economy: Economic Development Strategy.
Our community has invested in facilities that offer training at a high level in order to prepare students for jobs in growing regional industries. The result has been profoundly greater than anyone ever expected. Creating a home for SFCC’s programs to develop led to collaborative efforts among faculty members, students, community members and industries that have kept SFCC’s programs and opportunities at the forefront of sustainability- and trades-based programs nationally.
To me, someone who has been at the college through construction and expansion of the Trades and Advanced Technologies Center’s (TATC) facilities and programs, the most exciting aspect is the interactions of students both within and across disciplines. When building components for projects in Solar, Biofuels or Controlled Environment Agriculture programs, students can collaborate with other students in welding or fabrication programs. Many of the college’s aquaponic and hydroponic facilities are dependent upon or supplemented with solar heating or photovoltaic systems. Students in Green Building or Energy Efficiency programs can help plan and design the energy requirements of a structure or system that students in Solar, HVAC, Plumbing or Biofuels might assist in building. Students in the Plumbing and HVAC program also take solar hydronic classes to enhance their workforce opportunities.
In many ways the Controlled Environment Agriculture program is becoming a driving force in the TATC’s programs. Running a commercial-scale greenhouse operation requires manty of the skills taught throughout the TATC. Whether students spend extra time developing all of these skills themselves or make connections with peers they can involve in future projects, the collaborative environment is a huge advantage in seeing the whole and all of the moving parts that make a greenhouse run.
Bond funding allowed us to build three tracking arrays that allow students to set tracking parameters and predict both power and energy outputs from the 1.5-megawatt photovoltaic array. A large touch-screen computer monitor in the hallway allows students to pull up data on the arrays that show power, energy, temperatures, irradiance and other key data for predicting outputs. This data can also be brought up in the classroom and may soon be accessible to students from remote computers as well.
Xubi Wilson is the Renewable Energy Programs coordinator at the School of Trades, Technology, Sustainability and Professional Studies at Santa Fe Community College.