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SUNY Canton offers solar heating training to area contractors

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CANTON - There is no shortage of demand for energy and cost-efficient heating solutions in the north country, but there is a lack of contractors who know how to install them.

For the first time, SUNY Canton will offer classes on the evaluation and installation of solar thermal systems to area builders.

Starting Monday, the university’s Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology will instruct contractors to install, use and maintain the systems on residential structures, CREST program coordinator Arthur S. Garno said.

“We teach it as a credit course in our alternative energy degree program, which offers a bachelor of tech degree,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve offered it as continuing education for area contractors.”

Solar thermal systems use panels to heat water or air, which is then piped into buildings for use.

By offering the courses to the public, CREST is trying to become a destination for north country businesses looking to expand into energy-saving technology, an in-demand field.

“Everybody would like to reduce their carbon footprint,” Mr. Garno said. “We would like to participate in that and help people grow their business and, hopefully, become a little bit more green friendly.”

The courses will detail how solar collectors heat water for domestic use and teach contractors how to identify and prepare areas ideal for their installation. At the end of the course, students should be able to pass the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners’ entry-level exam.

“We are working in conjunction with the NYSERDA,” Mr. Garno said. “They have provided some funding to help start this program and to enhance our degree program.”

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority provided $150,000 for the training and other work force development programs at the university, said Dayle Zatlin, the authority’s assistant director of communications.

“SUNY Canton is part of NYSERDA’s network of training partners that are working to build a work force for the clean-energy economy,” she said.

With short winter days, most people assume that solar energy won’t work well in the north country, Mr. Garno said.

“Surprisingly, there is a significant solar availability in the north country,” he said. “It’s not the best area in the country, but it’s not a bad area. We’re hoping to create demand. I don’t know if people know enough about it right now.”

CREST also has scheduled Aug. 9 workshops for homeowners interested in installing solar heating panels on their property, Mr. Garno said.

“Down the road, we’re going to be doing the same sort of training for photovoltaic and how that can be tied into your home energy uses and how that can go into a system that interacts with the grid, so you can put energy back into the grid,” he said.

CREST already offers training that leads to certifications allowing contractors to provide NYSERDA incentives to their customers. NYSERDA also offers incentives for solar thermal installations, Ms. Zatlin said.

“They’re connected. We’ve got these incentives available, and now we’re helping to train the contractors,” she said. “We hope it gives a boost for people to install these systems.”

The deadline to apply for the 40-hour course is Friday. Those interested may contact Mr. Garno by phone at 386-7197, or by email at garnoa@canton.edu.

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