Home > News & Events > Midwest Renewable Energy Association launches Solar Training Academy at Kankakee Community College

Midwest Renewable Energy Association launches Solar Training Academy at Kankakee Community College

Beginning in January, Kankakee Community College is hosting a course that provides skills in the emerging field of solar installation.

The Solar Training Academy meets on four weekends between Jan. 25 and March 28. The weekend format is designed so most students can attend without missing school or work with no required prerequisites for enrollment.

Students start with Basic Photovoltaics and by the end of the series of courses, are qualified to take the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners®) Associate Level Exam. The certification “recognizes individuals who have demonstrated knowledge of the fundamental principles of the application, design, installation, and operation of Photovoltaic systems,” according to the NABCEP website.

“People who take this class are either looking to get into the field due to career change, or to expand their business into renewable energy,” said Clay Sterling, who is the lead instructor for the course.

“The solar installation field has been growing at steady rate for the past 10 years,” Sterling continued. “There are several large scale solar installations as well as smaller systems going up in this region. As a result, there are not enough skilled people to fill all the job openings. This training, as well as KCC’s traditional degree route, are working to fill the gap with trained qualified people.”

The Solar Training Academy is offered by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, a non-profit which promotes renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration. It does not award college credit.

The class is being held at KCC’s new Advanced Technology Education Center, located on the college’s Riverfront Campus. The center itself is a model of sustainable resources, and has attained Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“We provide our Solar Training Academy in various locations across the Midwest in order to reach as many students as possible,” said Greta Ladenthin, training manager of the MREA. “Kankakee Community College’s new state-of-the-art facility is the perfect setting for our training. The students get an opportunity to see an installed system, seeing the technology in action is such a benefit.”

A classroom with an adjacent solar panel assembly lab will be the primary location for the class. The ATEC rooftop solar array will be used for demonstrations during the class.

“In three weekends you walk away with resume building training and an increasingly sought-after solar credential valued by the industry,” said Greta Ladenthin, training manager of the MREA. The fourth weekend of the class is dedicated to the certification exam.

The training at KCC is one of two Illinois sites where MREA is offering the course. The early bird registration period ends Dec. 1. Registration continues until Jan. 21. More information is at www.midwestrenew.org/sta/.

About Lead Instructor: Clay Sterling

Sterling worked for the MREA in Wisconsin for 16 years, including 14 as an instructor. He moved to Illinois to teach at KCC. He said:

“Two other guys and I started teaching the training sequence in this winter format around 7 years ago. I have taught portions or all of the training sequence literally hundreds of times coast to coast.

“In Wisconsin, I lived in an off-grid home for 12 years. I was my own utility, and used solar electric, solar thermal and wind electric to meet the electrical and some of the heating needs of the home. Since moving to Illinois, I still incorporate many of the same habits to control electrical loads in the home and consume less.”

Although his current home uses traditional power sources, Sterling plans to change that someday. Other notable facts about Clay Sterling:

  • Has taught photovoltaics and wind workshops for the MREA for over 15 years
  • Professor of Electrical Engineering Technology at KCC (2016 – present)
  • Institute for Sustainable Power Quality Certified Instructor in both photovoltaics and Small Wind Energy.
  • Wisconsin’s K-12 Energy Education (KEEP) Non-Formal Energy Educator of the Year (2009)
  • Inducted into the MREA Avenue of Advocates (2019) for leadership in advancing renewable energy and sustainable living.
  • B.S. University of Wisconsin; M.A. Saint Xavier University
  • Experienced as a commercial electrician on large construction projects.