Northeast Early College Pioneers Solar Career Pathway

As COP26 wrapped up making some progress but still a long way to go, one DPS school is preparing students for careers in renewable energy.

Practicing their construction skills

Northeast Early College (NEC) is pioneering a career pathway for students to gain the skills needed to meet our current and future renewable energy demands.  In a partnership with and funded by GRID Alternatives, Grid Lab Lite Solar Training is the first of its kind in Denver Public Schools.  The City and County of Denver is providing funding to continue the program for more students as part of its Renewable Denver Community Solar initiative.

Over the course of the three week training, students learn and apply everything from tool use, electrical and construction safety to solar and electrical concepts to completing a mock solar installation and exploring solar industry career pathways.  The in-depth training includes 40 hours of study and lab workshops to implement their learning into real life applications.

The first week begins with an orientation focusing Ohm’s Law, ecoliteracy, renewables vs. fossil fuels, an introduction to electrical circuits and a wiring board lab. Students learn about electrical measurements volts, amps and ohms and the basics of photovoltaics (PV).  They practice using multimeters and investigate the solar design concepts of tilt, azimuth and the sun’s path.  The second lab explores series and parallel circuits.  Demonstrations include a solar tracker, solar powered devices and a solar oven.

Monitoring the solar oven temperature

Students return for the intensive second week to learn about electricity topics AC/DC current, the grid,  and wiring basics. As they learn they practice using career relevant hand tools such as wire strippers, channel locks, MC4 crimpers, pry bars, power tools like impact drivers and bandsaws and electrical multimeters and pyranometers.  Safety is of the highest importance and the course covers electrical, construction, and ladder safety and fall protection equipment and protocols.  Additional exercises delve into determining the right size for a PV installation, bending conduit, understanding the differences between power and energy.

In the final week, students put all they learn into practice with creating a SketchUp PV design, a mock rooftop installation and exploring sustainability career pathway to determine the next steps to a career in renewable energy.  A final written exam and a practical test of rewiring a board using a circuit diagram ensures students are prepared for further vocational training.

A mock roof solar installation

DPS is both proud and excited to see the renewable career pathway grow to more schools and celebrate the steps NEC and GRID Alternatives have taken to be a leader in meeting our students’ and our community’s future energy needs.  Thank you GRID Alternatives for funding and training our students!