Solar Panel Project Will Generate Energy for TNCC Workforce Development Program

Published: December 6, 2011

In a few weeks, students at Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) will mount solar panels on top of storage containers to generate renewable energy that will power lighting and charge batteries for the College’s motorcycle safety program. Once construction is complete, TNCC will hold a small demonstration showcasing this affordable and practical way to collect, store and use solar energy.

This innovative project supports energy conservation while providing students with hands-on experience. Computer-Assisted Drafting and Design (CADD) students will design the structure, and Engineering Technology students will research peak load, calculating battery storage capacity and orientation as well as handle installing and wiring the batteries. “The project prepares students for green careers. When they leave our program, they can say to a prospective employer, ‘I have done the job. I actually built a solar project,’” said Deborah Lichniak, a TNCC engineering professor.

The solar project is funded by the Greenforce Initiative, a two-year project started in 2010 by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Jobs for the Future (JFF) to strengthen the capacity of community colleges to develop, enhance or refine green career pathway programs and to spur innovation.

With support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and CS Mott Foundation, the Greenforce Initiative strengthens green career pathways leading to postsecondary credentials and family sustaining careers, using campus “greening” or sustainability efforts as “learning laboratories” for education and training. Building on the combined experience of NWF and JFF in environmental sustainability and workforce development, respectively, this commitment provides assistance to community colleges in six regions: Metro Chicago, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, Seattle, and South Texas. Four schools in Virginia have been awarded grants and more than 15 nationally.

“We face a major challenge to retool and rebuild our workforce and meet the challenges of the coming clean energy economy,” said Lisa Madry, campus field director, National Wildlife Federation. “The Greenforce commitment will help accelerate America’s ability to tackle the climate crisis while creating economic opportunities and pathways out of poverty.”

“Post-secondary credentials are increasingly required for careers that pay family-sustaining wages,” said Gloria Mwase, program director, Jobs for the Future. “While the labor demand in key “green” sectors offer job growth opportunities in many communities, it is critical that we ensure that under-prepared adults can access and succeed in these careers.”

In Virginia, there are more than 336,000 jobs in areas that could see job growth or wage increases by putting global warming solutions to work, according to Huey Battle from the Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board. TNCC is part of Virginia’s Community College (VCCS) which is committed to supporting the growth of sustainability-skilled jobs in Virginia. “By 2015 Virginia’s Community Colleges hopes to be working with approximately 12,000 Virginia companies, and we are starting to see demand for green jobs in Virginia in the weatherization, HVAC, and wind industries,” says Glenn DuBois, Chancellor for VCCS.

Carmen Burrows, associate vice-president for workforce training, explained, “TNCC has enjoyed a ten-year collaboration with the local. Workforce Investment Board and One-Stop system to provide training for unemployed and underemployed adults through the Workforce Investment Act. This year, with the solar demonstration project and a weatherization grant from the US Department of Energy, TNCC Workforce Training adds green jobs training to the list of options.” To obtain information on TNCC green programs, visit

Since its formation in 1936, National Wildlife Federation has worked with affiliates across the country to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for future generations. NWF seeks to engage and educate its 4 million members, partners and supporters with a focus on restoring habitat, confronting global warming and connecting people with nature. To learn more about NWF’s environmental higher education programs, visit the Campus Ecology and Greenforce Initiative,

Jobs for the Future develops, implements, and promotes new education and workforce strategies that help communities, states, and the nation compete in a global economy. In more than 200 communities across 43 states, JFF improves the pathways leading from high school to college to family-sustaining careers.( (

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