With the nation’s renewable energy industry growing three times as fast as the overall U.S. economy, Macomb Community College has developed several initiatives to tap into the green revolution. Key among these efforts is the creation of a Renewable Energy Certificate and the ongoing development of the Center for Alternative Fuels at the college.
A report issued by the American Solar Energy Society in January 2009 indicated that renewable energy and energy efficiency industries had grown to be a $1 trillion industry in the U.S. by 2007 and that solar thermal, photovoltaic, biodiesel, and ethanol sectors each were showing 25 percent annual revenue growth. Macomb’s programs are designed to provide a gateway for students to prepare not only for current possibilities that may exist in these industries, but to have the education and training needed as their future unfolds.
Macomb’s green initiatives were bolstered earlier this year by the awarding of two grants from the federal government, one each for $475,750 and $333,000. The money will be used by the college to support the development of these and related green education and job training programs and to purchase related equipment.
“The potential in the renewable energy and green technology arena is just beginning to open up,” said Dr. Jim Jacobs, president of Macomb. “This community is uniquely positioned to be able to build upon its automotive heritage of engineering and manufacturing and to become a center of excellence in these new technologies.”
Macomb is building on the strength of its existing automotive program to work with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a plan for a Center for Advanced Automotive Technology. The center, if approved, would be located at Macomb and would serve as a regional hub for the development and dissemination of curriculum and training programs that would integrate the latest green and sustainable energy technologies related to automotive applications. Macomb, working with Wayne State University and several other education partners, will submit the final plan for the center to NSF later this year.
Macomb’s Renewable Energy Certificate program is a survey of five different emerging technologies – wind, solar, biomass, geo-thermal and hydrogen fuel cell – in a 15 credit hour sequence that can stand alone or be woven into a students’ associate degree program. While the certificate program will not officially launch until the Fall 2009 semester, 87 students have already taken the renewable energy classes the college offered in Fall 2008 and Winter 2009 as a pilot program. Last week, students in the pilot Principles of Solar Energy course spent their class session building and testing miniature solar arrays. The Renewable Energy Certificate is designed so that it can be integrated with related career-focused academic programs at the college. As an example, following one possible option, a student could take a 65-credit course of study at Macomb, which can be accomplished in two years of full-time study, and could graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Maintenance Technology and certificates in both Renewable Energy and Electrical-Industrial Maintenance.
Dr. Jim Sawyer, vice provost for career programs at Macomb, said demand for the new green technology classes is high.
“Our initial pilot courses were only advertised via word of mouth and a few posters near the classroom. Some of them were not even in the printed schedule, but students sought them, out” Sawyer said. “Based on this response and what we are hearing from colleges around the state, we anticipate strong student interest in this program.”
The college’s Center for Alternative Fuels is working with local industry to develop training curriculum in advance battery technology. Earlier this month, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority awarded $100 million tax credits to three companies and is seeking a similar credit for a fourth company to open facilities in the state to manufacture advanced battery systems for automotive use.
The Center for Alternative Fuels, created at Macomb in 2006 with support from the NSF, has trained more than 1,700 people to date in various aspects of hybrid-electric engines. Working in conjunction with Kettering University and U.S. Army’s TACOM in Warren, Macomb has provided hands-on, practical hydrogen fuel-cell operation training to several dozen military technicians as part of a fuel cell vehicle pilot program at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.
The college is also offering an overview of the renewable energy field to area high school students in a four-day Career Academy program scheduled for August.
“As these green technologies continue to evolve, Macomb will continue to update and add to its educational offerings to ensure that our students are able to take advantage of the new opportunities that are created in these industries, both now and in the future,” Jacobs said.
The college is also utilizing $135,000 in new federal funding secured in partnership with the Michigan Community College Association to create a training program for those in the construction industry on weatherizing and retrofitting existing homes and other buildings using the latest in green technologies.
“While the college is committed to providing skills and training that can get a person a job in the short-term, we are also focused on helping our students build on that initial education to earn a certificate or associate degree here at Macomb to position them for even greater future opportunities. At the same time,, we are working closely with our four-year college partners to ensure that our students can seamlessly transfer the credits earned at Macomb in these emerging fields in to a bachelor’s degree program, ” Jacobs said.
About Macomb Community College
Macomb Community College (www.macomb.edu) is one of the nation’s leading community colleges, providing learning experiences to more than 59,000 students annually. Macomb nationally ranks in the top two percent in the number of associate degrees awarded and as the largest grantor of associate degrees in Michigan. The college’s comprehensive educational programming includes pre-collegiate experiences, university transfer and career preparation programs, bachelor degree completion and graduate degree programs, workforce training, professional education and certification, and continuing education and enrichment opportunities.