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Energy Technology

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Sierra College’s Energy Technology Program is located within the Environmental Studies and Sustainability Department; the program’s director is Michael Kane. Currently the Sierra College Energy Technology Program offers three courses in photovoltaic (PV) installation.  The first two courses ESS 30 (Beginning Photovoltaic Systems), and ESS 32 (Intermediate Photovoltaic Systems), focus on residential solar installation and provide students with the knowledge and skills to work in the solar industry as solar installers, sales persons and technicians. The third course and ESS 34 (Advanced Photovoltaic Systems) also focuses on system design, off-grid and commercial systems.

The first two courses (ESS 30 and 32) once successfully completed allow students to sit for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level exam. Sierra College is very proud of the success our students have had on this national exam, Sierra College has an overall pass rate of 89% on the NABCEP Entry Level Exam, the pass rate on the exam nationally is reported to be between 50 and 60%. Additionally students successfully completing ESS 30 and 32 qualify for Sierra College’s Certificate in Photovoltaics.

Students who continue on to our ESS 34 (Advanced Photovoltaic Installation) will have the opportunity to work on a commercial level solar installation. The students work as a project team and are involved in all phases of the design and installation of the array. The class works in partnership with Sierra College’s Facilities Division to complete these projects on campus. Recently the ESS 34 class has completed an 18,000 watt installation on campus that is valued at nearly $100,000 and will provide the campus with $4000 in annual electrical production. Students successfully completing the ESS 34 class will also be eligible to receive Sierra College’s Certificate in Advance Photovoltaics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Photovoltaics?

Solar energy (photovoltaic) is a clean, reliable, and affordable source of electricity. Photovoltaic technology makes use of the sun’s plentiful energy, has low impact on the environment and can be used in a wide range of products from small consumer items to large commercial solar electric systems.

Is this program right for you?

If you have worked in construction, and like hands-on work, this program will give you more marketable skills taught in applied learning labs.

If you enjoyed ROP Automotive or Construction, this program may appeal to you. Students who like to work on their cars, design projects, tinker with equipment, use hand tools and take things apart to see how they work, may find they really have an aptitude to be a solar energy technician.

Men and women who are good at problem solving, thinking about how a system works and enjoy working with their hands may excel as solar energy technicians.

In the program, you will learn essential safety skills, construction skills, and the fundamentals of photovoltaic system installation and maintenance. The training will qualify you to work for photovoltaic companies, homebuilders, government and electric utility companies.

You need to be comfortable working with electricity; students work with AC generators, invertors, batteries and wiring. Basic math is also needed for conducting site assessment, energy audits and designing appropriately sized systems. On the job, you’ll work with power tools, climb on roofs; carry equipment, use meters and work alongside other trades.

Technicians work in the field at building sites, commercial buildings and customers’ homes as well as in the office estimating, designing, assembling and building systems.

When and where are the classes offered?

Both ESS 30 (Beginning Photovoltaics) and ESS 34 (Advanced Photovoltaics) are only offered in the fall semesters.  ESS 30 is offered both at the Roseville Gateway Center and the Nevada County Campus.  ESS 32 (Intermediate Photovoltaics) is only offered in the spring semester and both ESS 32 and ESS 34 are only offered at the Roseville Gateway Center.  Start time for the classes are usually 4:30 PM with several Saturday sessions for ESS 30 & 32 and eight to ten Saturday sessions for the project work in ESS 34.

When can you register for class?

Registration for the PV courses will be ongoing and in accordance with the normal registration schedules for any Sierra College course.  Students must apply and be accepted to Sierra College to enroll in the classes, as with all California Community Colleges, Sierra College is an open enrollment institution but all prospective students must complete the application and enrollment process.  For more information please call the Sierra College Counseling department at (916) 660-7400 or go to  the following link:

Are there any other pre-requisites for these classes?

There are no reading, mathematics or English course pre-requisites to enter ESS 30.

Can a person enter ESS 34 (Advanced Photovoltaic Systems) if they have not taken ESS 30 or 32?

No, one must take ESS 30 (Basic Photovoltaic Systems) and ESS 32 (Intermediate Photovoltaic Systems) in that order before taking ESS 34 (Advanced Photovoltaic Systems).  With the permission of the Dean of Sciences & Mathematics students from American River College (ARC) who have completed ARC’s solar class sequence AND have successfully passed the NABCEP Entry Level Exam may petition to take ESS 34 at Sierra College without having taken ESS 30 and ESS 32.

What other courses should prospective students take?

There are no required courses for students to take prior to entering the program; however, students may find it to their benefit to take any of the following courses:

    1. CTR 60 Residential House Wiring and Codes
    2. CTR 44 Conventional Framing
    3. DES 1 Technical Drafting
    4. DES 2 Technical Drafting II
    5. DES 5 Computer Aided Drafting
    6. DES 20 Architectural Drawing I
    7. ENG 22A Engineering Drawing and CAD
    8. Courses from the Business Entrepreneurship program/certificate also would be beneficial if students are hoping to start their own business related to solar 

What do I need to do if I’m interested in teaching in the program?

Please fill out a Part-Time Faculty application located on the Human Resources webpage and submit it to the Human Resources office on the Rocklin campus.

** Please indicate “Solar Energy Systems Program” as the position you are applying for and as specify at which campus location(s) you are available to teach.

Will there be any assessment of skills?

There will be no specific skill testing to enter the program but students will be assessed in the courses for both theoretical and technical competencies, in particular safety skills will be taught and assessed.

Will there be a wait list?

There is no wait list for the program, however if classes are full there is a wait list option available for individual classes.

How many students per class?

Each course is a 4 unit course. This unit value equates to 3 lecture and 3 lab hours per week for 6 hours/week or 108 total instructional hours in our 16-week semester.

What other colleges are offering PV programs in this region?

The two nearest programs are located at American River and Diablo Valley Colleges.

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