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Friday, April 03, 2015
New HQ for KCC’s Premier Renewable Energy Program Breaks Ground

Community leaders broke ground at a formal ceremony March 31 for a new building to house Kankakee Community College's award-winning Electrical Technology program.
The 21,000 square foot building, called the Advanced Technological Education Center (ATEC), will contain classrooms, labs, offices, and support spaces to provide hands-on technical training in fields such as wind generation, solar thermal, solar photo-voltaic systems, and electrical (National Electric Code NEC) instruction.
Total construction cost is $6.2 million dollars. Completion is anticipated in April 2016. Of the costs, $5 million is being funded through a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, received in 2014. BLDD Architects of Chicago is the architect, and Piggush Simoneau, Inc. of Kankakee will be the builder.
KCC offers an Electrical Technology associate degree with a renewable energy technology specialization, for which the college received the Interstate Renewable Energy Council Accredited Clean Energy Training Provider of the Year award in 2014. The college also has short-term certificates in Solar-Wind Technology, Solar PV Technology and Solar-Thermal Technology. Each of these short-term certificates is 21 credit hours and can be finished in one year or less.
KCC already trains wind and solar technicians and hosts information sessions for the community as part of a grant received from the National Science Foundation. The ATEC facility also will house continuing training for technicians and electricians who are already in the profession.
"Future jobs depend on developing skills in energy technology," said Dr. John Avendano, KCC's president. "This facility will educate future renewable energy technicians, and serve as a regional resource. The college is fortunate to have two outstanding professionals leading this program, Tim Wilhelm and Jennifer Martin. They are devoted to being the best in the industry."
A portion of electricity to run the center will be channeled through KCC's wind turbine and photovoltaic array. It also will incorporate a number of sustainable features, including geothermal wells, low-flow fixtures and high-efficiency lighting.
"Currently we have multiple solar and wind energy technician jobs posted at our website," added Professor and Program Coordinator Tim Wilhem. "As we see more and more solar and wind technology deployed across the Midwest, there will be more job openings both regionally and locally. We just had four job openings come up in solar the other day. We had EDF, the owner of the Pilot Hill wind farm visit here and talk to our students, that they want to hire local. And as more of that goes on there will be more and more of that happening as more of the technology is deployed."
The completed building will meet requirements for the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Gold certification. ATEC will be the second LEED Gold certified building for KCC. Buildings are assigned scores by the U.S. Green Building Council based upon their environmentally-friendly attributes. The building council looks at the facility comprehensively, considering site issues, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials use and indoor environmental quality.
Solar photovoltaic installer
Number of jobs in 2012: 4,800
Job growth, 2012-22: 24% (Much faster than average)
2012 Median Pay: $37,900 per year; $18.22 per hour
"Although some installers need only a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting up to one year, most candidates receive training at a technical school or community college. These two-year programs offer entry-level courses or may be part of an apprenticeship program." – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. solar industry
  • 36,600 technical employees expected by 2020, an increase of about 24 percent compared to 2010.
  • Consumer solar demand will grow 31 percent to about 8.1 gigawatts in 2015.
  • In 2014, 6.2 gigawatts of solar panels were installed, including about 1.2 gigawatts for residential customers.
Wind Turbine Technicians
Number of Jobs in 2012: 3,200
Job growth, 2012-22: 24% (Much faster than average)
2012 Median Pay: $45,970 per year; $22.10 per hour
Wind sector
  • 27,700 jobs expected by 2020, an increase of roughly 14 percent since 2010.
  • A 175-megawatt Pilot Hill Wind Project is being constructed in western Kankakee County.
  • In 2014, turbines were installed across 51 projects in 19 different states.
  • In 2014, the U.S. wind industry installed 4,854 megawatts and 2,500 turbines.
"Most wind turbine service technicians learn their trade by attending a technical school. After completing a 2-year technical program, employers usually provide on-the-job training, typically lasting over 12 months." – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics