‘TOM’S’ GRANT BECOMES AN ASSOCIATE DEGREE IN SUSTAINABLE ENERGIES AT NHSC
*This is an extended version of the interviews of Dr. Hartman and Ms. Allery as some of the subject matter as to the Sustainable Energy Technologies is semi-technical in nature and the Writer felt the shortened version did a disservice to the comprehensive quality of the interviews and article as a whole
By Sherry Stevens
New Town, ND – NHSC published a press release on September 30th regarding approval from the Higher Learning Commission to offer an Associate in Science Degree in Sustainable Energy Technologies. MHA Times Staff interviewed Dr. Kerry Hartman, who assisted Tom Abe in pursuing the grants needed to create the curriculum, and Teri Allery, Instructor of the Sustainability Energy Technologies courses, as well as Sean Favata, a Manager and employee at a local Wind Turbine operation who is currently seeking to recruit workers in the commercial field of sustainable energy.
The Vision – Tom’s Grant
Dr. Kerry Hartman explains the beginnings and the inspiration behind the Sustainable Energy Degree:
Dr. Kerry Hartman
We wanted to be an alternate view to the oil frenzy, the Bakken frenzy. We also saw other parts of the country doing sustainable technologies and energies and wanted to bring that to our students. Mr. Tom Abe, who is a long-time faculty member of the college, and I, wrote a grant; he did most of it, and we now call it ‘Tom’s Grant,’ initiated in 2014. The source of the grant was the American Indian College Fund, and we just started organizing the concepts from there. He was probably one of the first persons on Fort Berthold to use solar technology. In fact, his house is in Bakersville, on the right side of the road, as you leave the casino heading west; it is a big house with a bunch of solar panels on the roof, and that is Tom’s house. He did that in 2012, and that helped us get our foot in the door. He brought that technology to the college for solar interest. We then located a gentleman from Nevada whose son worked at the college and at the Casino; we all pulled together and decided to write the grant. Tom’s Grant allowed us to start to develop the classes, and we decided we might as well write another grant to legitimize these classes. This way, we could get the two-year degree accomplished and offered. The grant is almost complete and over now. We had the two-year degree awarded and accredited, which was the mission a long time ago.
The Grants; TCUP, American Indian College Fund, and the 2016 STEM Infusion Project
The men started with an application of the TCUP Grant, which enabled them to hire faculty, a Director, legitimize classes, and receive equipment, etcetera. The Degree will stay in place now that the Grant is almost gone, although Hartman still intends to write more grants. This is in order to provide more opportunities and more capabilities for NHSC students and faculty who are learning and teaching sustainable energy studies.
Hartman furthers, “The next grant we wrote was one I wrote, and it was through the American Indian College Fund, which is where we got our turbine and our solar trailer, and many of our panels. The American Indian College Fund had a source to promote sustainable energy sources, so we jumped on that. There were three grants, the TCUP, and two from the AICF for the sustainable energy one was the academic grant, to legitimize or the one which allowed us to bring it to this point, to a degree.”
Wind and Solar Energy from the Second Grant
In regards to renewable energy, Hartman commented, “The second American Indian College Fund was the grant that gave us the turbine. As a result, we have a solar trailer that we take around to powwows, and we take it around to schools to show off the solar technology. We also have a few solar panels around the college. Although, as I said, we’re planning on writing more to get more technology in regards to wind technology as well, hardware and materials.”
He further offered, “In regards to turbine energy, we want to promote more wind energy, but they’re fairly expensive to install. To install a turbine, you need a huge base, huge anchors, a crane, and a tower for protection. That’s probably why they’re more expensive; they’re also more beneficial, so, it’s kind of a trade-off.”
Sustainable Energy is Beneficial in North Dakota
When asked why turbines are more beneficial in North Dakota than most places, Hartman replied, “Because the wind blows every day in North Dakota. The sun is here a lot too. The turbine runs all day and all night, almost every day. I think it’s like 80% of the days in North Dakota have sufficient winds for turbines.”
Solar and Wind Turbine Energy is Well Worth the Money Invested
In a thorough explanation about the benefits of optimizing solar energy, he further offered:
Optimizing solar energy is very easy to understand. In order for your solar panels to follow the sun, they have to be movable, they have to tilt, and they have to rotate a little bit, but you can anchor them; you can nail them to the post. You can still get 80% of the available sun. There’s also a big discussion over how much sustainable technology do you want, or do you need? Obviously, if you are operating off-grid, you are not just looking at it as a supplemental source. You have more cost, but like for myself, I would want it to be supplemental, and if I were looking for a solar array for my house, sustainability-wise, I could spend 12,000 dollars and knock 30% to 50% of my monthly bill off. It will pay for itself in ten years. People don’t think about this when they put a new furnace in their house; that costs a whole bunch of money. That’s going to be heating your house for 50 years. A trade-off for the energy is quite substantial. Solar is easier to install and it’s easier to work with. However, the wind turbine is coming back because they are very common sense. If I could buy a one-home wind turbine, I would put up one of those, also. I am looking into it.”
Sources of Assistance Offered to Acquire Sustainable Energy Power
“There are funds available through federal government for homeowners, tribal members and for Tribal entities,” Hartman said, “Our current administration is pro-oil and pro-coal, the nonrenewable polluting technology. I’m hoping the incoming administration will be supportive of rebuilding our energy system and using renewable sources and eliminating fossil fuels. We do know we are going to see more renewable technologies in the future than you have seen in the past. Modern wind farms have the capacity of factors greater than 40% or 45% of the time, and we have factors greater than 80% of the time here in North Dakota.
College Credits for the Students looking to Install the Technology
Hartman feels there is no getting around the fact all of NHSC’s general education courses transfer anywhere, but there are very few colleges that have a degree in Sustainable Energy. He said, “We build the classes to comply with national standards. There are very few colleges or master’s degrees yet, in sustainable energy. Students take a bunch of our sustainable energy courses and then transferred to NDU, and NDU doesn’t have a sustainable energy program. A few may take it and put it toward the area of engineering, but it’s not yet too much of a transfer degree, but this is only because there’s so few places that have a four-year sustainable. We are applying it through the state to add it to our CTE, which is a Career and Technical Education Division, so it is a trade degree.”
The Curriculum-for this Degree
Terry Allery explained the curriculum courses:
In the first semester, the students will take an intro to Sustainable Energy Course to get familiarized with all of the different types of energy. Then they will take a Basic Energy Efficiency Course just to help them familiarize themselves with basic energies in the home such as; light bulbs and what types of windows you should use. They will also take an Electronics Course, which will help them with the maps they will need for the PV courses and the wind course.
The Wind Course
Allery further explained, “The wind course is still a work in progress as a faculty member and I were supposed to attend a wind certification course back in March, but due to Covid-19, it was canceled. They are working on the online program for that now. We took a class for solar and so our students will be taking the same course, but it will be taking them a little longer because it’s a classroom setting, and it’s also two semesters. They will go through everything for residential solar, and then once they take the two semesters of PV-1, they can be certified as residential solar installers. After that, if they want to go work for a business or start their own company, they will be able to do so once they pass that certification.”
Solar Energy Students
Allery reports, “With NHSC’s program right now, we have two students taking it this fall, and once they take that PV course in the spring, they have an option to take the certification test. This is for Residential Photovoltaics. We have not gotten certified for the wind yet, but it’s in the works. There are four first-year students in the program altogether. There is one student who had taken courses previous to the program, and he now has enough credits to graduate in December.”
The Courses Prepare the Students to Install the Entire Solar System
These courses are instrumental in preparing people who may want to install solar systems in their own homes or run a business. Once the student is certified to install the solar equipment, they can install the entire system, and thereafter, they will need a certified electrician to come in and check everything; basically, flip the switch. The basics are there, and NHSC has the core classes in terms of sustainability courses; the basic electronics, energy efficiency, and the two solar courses; PV-1 and PV2.
Photovoltaics and Wind Certification
If Allery is able to get the wind certification by spring, the students could take the other courses in the fall. This would allow them to get both degrees with an emphasis on solar and wind power. The solar certification is a 150-question test with a 75% required score to pass. This is for residential only, and the NHSC is working on level two installation, which is commercial-type installation, i.e., Walmart or Sam’s Club, etc. Allery mentioned anyone could obtain Photovoltaics certification online in 2021, but by taking NHSC’s courses, there is a classroom setting where they take time and do the labs, and walk through the simulations with the students so they can learn the information well. She said, “We do mock simulations throughout the college with the photovoltaic equipment.”
Residential vs. Commercial Wind Turbines
She also mentioned, “There are a handful of people on fort Berthold Reservation using wind turbine energy sources. The tough thing about setting up large operations for wind turbine energy is finding the land to place the turbines. There’s quite a bit of research that goes into it and learning the migration patterns of certain bird species, etcetera. In regards to finding land, there are many people who own land adjacent to each other, and so name searches have to be performed to get enough wind turbines lined up. It’s quite an undertaking, but it is definitely worthwhile, once accomplished.
Wind Turbine Courses Teach How to Size the System that is needed, and not so Much ‘to Work’ on the Wind Turbines
The students would be able to do limited troubleshooting, but it’s more of ‘sizing them up’ than setting them up. Sizing means; ascertaining what size of a turbine is needed to run electricity in the home. The individual takes a look at the home’s electric bill in order to see how much electricity is being used, and there would be some equations that need to be worked out in order to see how many kilowatts are needed for the turbine. With the certifications in wind energy, the individual will also be able to set up a farm by sizing a system.
These courses teach the mathematical equations in order to work the steps in what size of equipment they will need, such as; inverters, size of the gauge of wire needed, number of panels, and the volume of watts the panels are giving off.
These Courses May Lay a Foundation for a Higher Degree in Environmental and Engineering Sciences
Allery explained in detail how the degree could be used as foundational coursework to environmental studies and engineering technologies:
NHSC also has a four-year program where the program is set up on ‘two-track’ which means; the credits are set up for one track, and once the student graduates with a two-year degree in sustainable if they wanted to go onto environmental science, it would like having the first two years of environmental science completed, and they can go right into environmental science. There is also an engineering track where the mathematics and sciences curriculum is switched up, and depending upon where they come in at with the math and sciences, they could get close to two years of engineering courses done during the time of studying for a sustainable energy degree. If they went into the engineering track, they could transfer into NDSU since we already host the pre-engineering programs. The core courses transfer to NDSU or even UND.
Sean Favata, a Mechanical Material Support Person at Aurora Wind and former Plant Manager at Wind Farms, both local commercial wind turbine companies, says in regards to those qualities they look for in hiring individuals to work on their commercial sustainable energy projects, “We generally look for someone who is flexible mentally which means; open to learning, quick at problem-solving, and has adaptive skills. Safety is key, and a person who is safety conscious is highly desirable as the requirements of the job duties on wind turbines can be high risk. He believes solar energy is much more straight forward.”
If you or someone you know are interested in taking a course or getting more information about certification or a degree in the sustainable energy field, you may contact admissions at NSHC 1-800-221-9393 or Teri Allery at [email protected]
*Solar energy: solar power is usable energy generated from the sun in the form of electric or thermal energy. Solar energy is captured in a variety of ways, the most common of which is with photovoltaic solar panels that convert the sun’s rays into usable electricity
*Wind energy or wind power refers to the process of creating electricity using the wind or air flows that occur naturally in the earth’s atmosphere. Modern wind turbines are used to capture kinetic energy from the wind and generate electricity.