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SMCC preps for alternative energy future

The Sustainability Center at Southern Maine Community College will begin offering classes this fall on various aspects of energy efficiency at the school’s new sustainability facility.

The Sustainability and Energy Alternatives Center will offer classes to both matriculated students and community members, according to Director John Brautigam, appealing to “someone who wants to be an energy auditor or someone who wants to weatherize homes, or building managers who want to be energy specialists.”

In conjunction with the center, SMCC is launching a new one-year academic program in building science and sustainability. The school has hired a faculty person with a Ph.D. in sustainability and developed four classes: energy auditing and building science, residential weatherization, an expanded renewable energy course and an introductory freshmen course on sustainability, according to Kaylene Waindle, SMCC’s dean of advancement.

Of all states, Maine is the most dependent on home heating oil — roughly three out of four households use oil, making homeowners vulnerable to unstable prices and market fluctuations. And a slew of state and federal incentives for energy retrofits have helped boost demand for energy audits and weatherization services.

Waindle says the program in particular will help students who are planning a career in construction. “We have some of the largest and oldest trade programs, and our goal was to produce graduates who are mindful of sustainability and more competitive in the work market because they have these additional skills,” she says. “To be a contractor who is also a certified energy auditor is an asset.”

Like many other campuses, SMCC is making efforts to become more green and sustainable.

“The center is an opportunity for us to educate students and our own workers,” Waindle says, “so we can improve the college’s mission and its carbon footprint as well as reduce costs and build a better work environment.”

The college has both solar photovoltaic and solar thermal systems on campus and is installing a campus-wide metering system to track buildings’ energy and water usage. Maine’s other community colleges are also pursuing alternative energy agendas. Northern Maine Community College began offering an associate degree in wind power technology two years ago and Kennebec Valley Community College has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of nine regional centers to provide instructor training in solar system design, installation, sales and inspection. Its first training session was last February.

The Sustainability Center at SMCC will begin offering classes this fall semester and celebrate a grand opening after the school year begins, according to Waindle. Going forward, Brautigam says he’d like to see the center expand its reach, training students for a very different energy future.

“We want to get into more advanced renewable energy and expand into wind, tidal, solar, biomass and wood pellets,” he says.

Read the rest of the article.

 

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