Local colleges offer a ‘green’ degree
Energy costs continue to rise. That’s the bad news. The good news is that as energy costs take a bigger bite out of business profits, demand for qualified people to reduce energy expenses has increased.
To help meet that demand, Nevada is offering students the only associate degree of applied science in industrial energy efficiency in the country.
“Timing wise, in highly escalating energy costs, we hope people will take advantage of it,” says Douglas Prihar, project manager of Management Assistance Partnership. He helped facilitate the degree program for students seeking careers in energy efficiency.
Four Nevada colleges offer the two-year degree program: Great Basin College, Truckee Meadows Community College, Southern Nevada Community College and Western Nevada Community College. All four colleges also provide certificate programs geared toward professionals currently working with industrial energy efficiency.
The energy-efficiency program took root at GBC during the process of making grant requests to the Department of Energy in 2004. The college had developed a working relationship with the energy department, providing college space at no cost for uses related to mining, a big energy consumer in the state. DOE administrators liked the technical education programs at GBC and wanted to assist with adding more.
Courses are based upon DOE “best practices” workshops, which focus on the main power systems used to balance the supply and demand sides of energy consumption. In addition, courses address maintenance issues, along with savings estimates for upgrades and system redesigns.
“Any electrical use is key, as well as pumping issues and moving water,” says Prihar.
Instructors provide students with hands-on experience in the classroom. Dennis Donovan, president of Sustainable Energy Solutions in Sparks, will teach two classes at TMCC: Compressed Air Fundamentals and Industrial Process. He formerly taught mechanical engineering and ran the energy assessment program at UNR, conducting more than 200 plant-wide energy efficiency reports.
Donovan’s classes will be taught at all four colleges simultaneously via a video link broadcast. Beaming these courses statewide ensures that people won’t have to travel long distances to learn from experienced instructors.
“In the real world, things don’t always work out the way textbooks say they should,” says Prihar. That’s why instructors with real world experience are on board to bring students unique and highly technical expertise in this field.
One goal of the energy efficiency degree program is to steer more people toward careers in mechanical and electrical engineering. Nationwide, demand for engineers is rising. This program provides future engineers a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree. Another goal is to help industries reduce energy consumption. A positive response to this program is expected to open doors for future degree programs in renewable energy.