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HCC students get a peek into their solar future

December 03, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Community College student Jone Thurmond studies a solar array Monday at the solar farm on Roxbury Road. Andy Hershberger, installation project manager for Belectric Inc., looks on.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Solar panels are coming to Hagerstown Community College.

Students at HCC toured the solar farm on Roxbury Road on Monday along with staff and faculty as part of the school’s collaboration with First Solar that was announced in a press release at the beginning of November.

“We’re trying to show the students the general building blocks of a utility-scale solar power plant,” said Peter Seidel, First Solar’s regional manager of projects. “This fits right in our corporate culture, trying to educate the students and the public about alternative energy.”

The tour went through the 20-megawatt Maryland Solar facility, a First Solar project that is in progress, as First Solar explained what was happening.

Tony Valente, coordinator and lead instructor for alternative energy and technology at HCC, said the tour could help the students learn all the important aspects of a system like the solar farm.

“It’s important for the students to actually get the exposure and find out what it takes to produce a system on various different scales,” he said. “This is the largest scale that students in our area would typically see.”

The collaboration, according to Valente, includes site studying, planning, and the assembling process and operation of a complete system. To go along with that, students at HCC will have guest lectures, internships and a way to view the data from the solar farm directly from the STEM building on HCC’s campus.

Also, First Solar donated 300 solar panels to the college, which will be installed next to the Athletic, Recreation and Community Center, according to HCC President Guy Altieri.

“It allows the students to learn hands-on installation practices,” Seidel added. “They’ll get a real chance to do it themselves.”

Hagerstown resident Anish Mickey Kamble, 25, who is an alternative energy technology second-year student at HCC, said the collaboration and the tour gives him a feel for where  Hagerstown and Washington County are at regarding solar energy.

“We’re on the front end,” he said. “I don’t know what other counties have in Maryland, but as far as Washington County, I feel like having this tied to something institutionalized like a correctional facility brings renewable energy to the forefront.”

Boonsboro resident Jeremiah Carroll, 21, who is also a second-year alternative energy technology student at HCC, added that the tour and the collaboration can help demonstrate the effectiveness of solar energy.

“It’s going to show that this can be done,” he said. “I’m excited to see how it works on a commercial scale.”

First Solar is a global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic solar systems, which use thin-film modules, the same modules offered to HCC.

Nicki Woodhams of Rohrersville, also an HCC alternative energy technology student, has a background in architecture and talked about how she could incorporate solar energy into that with the collaboration.

“Solar and alternative energy is the next horizon,” she said. “To be able to generate our own electricity where we’re going to be using it is just awesome.”

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