By Craig Spychalla
The sun was shining Monday afternoon, shedding some light on a new subject that is growing in popularity for college students.
Along the wide-open space near Madison Area Technical College in Fort Atkinson, there is the start of a new energy source that will be able to supply the college with all the power it needs.
But more importantly, students will get to learn about one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation by studying the engineering and installation of solar power.
“In the last decade, solar has really exploded,” said Ken Walz, a science and engineer instructor for MATC.
The school has had a renewable energy program for the last 15 years that originally focused on biofuels.
On the Fort Atkinson campus, MATC also had a wind turbine for about a decade that was dissembled last year after a gear box broke.
Walz said educators used the turbine to teach students about wind technology. But the cost to fix the problem was expensive, so the turbine was sold to someone in Michigan who will put that equipment into operation there.
“We were looking at some necessary repairs, and enrollment in wind (energy) classes had gone down over the last several years,” Walz said.
Biofuels also is maxed out in this state, he said, with not much opportunity for jobs growth.
But solar power now is booming and for a good reason. Not only is there abundant sunshine for a place like MATC to operate a facility, but the technology to build solar panels is relatively inexpensive.
In fact, Walz said installing a solar energy system is 90 percent cheaper to build than in 2003 when MATC first installed one.
Back then, the price was about $18 per watt. And now it’s about $1.70 per watt. The MATC-Fort Atkinson project will have a 150,000-watt system.
The growth in the school’s program for wind and solar power is starting to reflect a major shift in the energy industry, Walz stated.
“We can generate a lot more energy from solar at a lower cost and have a lot more students,” he said.
For the rest of the story visit: https://SolarPower@MATCHelpCollegeStudents