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Sierra College Solar

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Construction and Energy Technology

logoSierra College’s Energy Technology Program is located within the Business and Technology Department.

Currently the Sierra College Construction & Energy Technology Program offers three courses in photovoltaic (PV) installation and one course in solar photovoltaic (PV) sales.

Courses Offered:

The first two courses CET 40 (Beginning Photovoltaic Systems), and CET 42 (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, CET 44 (Advanced Photovoltaic Systems), focuses on system design, off-grid and commercial systems.

The fourth course CET 46 (Solar Photovoltaic Sales), focuses on basics of solar photovoltaic marketing and sales concepts, incentives, analysis, communication techniques and applicable technical knowledge in solar photovoltaic systems required for intelligent sales and marketing.

Students who continue on to our CET 44 (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 as well as outside partnerships off campus.


The Energy Technology program is designed to develop students for real-world skills needed for success in the solar photovoltaic technology industry. Our goals are to prepare them for jobs in the field of renewable energy, such as solar power installation, site supervision, sales, system maintenance, and management. Students receive a background in sustainability while gaining specific technical skills related to renewable energy installation.

NABCEP Exam Excellence:

The first two courses (CET 40 and CET 42) once successfully completed, allow students to sit for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level exam. Additionally students successfully completing CET 40 and 42 qualify for Sierra College’s Certificate in Advanced Photovoltaics.

Highest Pass Rates in America:

Sierra College is very proud of the success our students have had on this national exam.

  • For five years, students in the Energy Technology program achieved an average pass rate of 89% exceeding the national average between 50% and 60%.
  • Women, who make up 10% of the students in the program, have maintained a 100% pass rate.
  • June 2014 – Sierra College Energy Technology students who took the entry-level exam, all passed with a (100%) pass rate.

Advanced Class Projects:

Starting fall semester, 2015 - Energy 2001, the Western Placer Waste Management Authority (WPWMA) and the Sierra College Energy Program Advanced Solar class have partnered to build five 9KW commercial solar arrays at the Western Regional Sanitary Landfill (WRSL) as an on-going advanced class project.  Ribbon cutting for the first array is scheduled for November 2015.

Recently, the CET 44 class completed an 18,000 watt installation on campus that is valued at nearly $100,000 and provides the campus with $4000 in annual electrical production. Students successfully completing the CET 44 class will also be eligible to receive Sierra College’s Certificate in Advanced Photovoltaics.

Extra-Curricular Accomplishments and Economic Awards:Click for full size image

  • 2015 Northern California SMUD Solar Regatta – Winner Overall Competition, first place in the sprint race, slalom race, and team presentation. Students competed against other colleges building a solar boat implementing physics and practical electricity, renewable energy, solar, engineering, and communication.
  • 2014 Northern California SMUD Solar Regatta – first place for endurance.
  • 2009 County of Placer Economic Development Board Award - Public Sector for New Solar Energy Technician & Energy Efficiency Programs.

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 CET 40 (Beginning Photovoltaics) and CET 44 (Advanced Photovoltaics) are only offered in the fall semesters. CET 46 is offered in both fall and spring semesters. CET 40 is offered both at Sierra College and the Nevada County Campus. CET 42 (Intermediate Photovoltaics) is only offered in the spring semester and both CET 42 and CET 44 are only offered at the Sierra College campus. Start time for the classes are usually 4:30 PM with several Saturday sessions for CET 40 & 42 and eight to ten Saturday sessions for the project work in CET 44.

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: http://www.sierracollege.edu/admissions/index.php

Are there any other pre-requisites for these classes?

There are no reading, mathematics or English course pre-requisites to enter CET 40.

Can a person enter CET 44 (Advanced Photovoltaic Systems) if they have not taken CET 40 or 42?

No. One must take CET 40 (Basic Photovoltaic Systems) and CET 42 (Intermediate Photovoltaic Systems) in that order, before taking CET 44 (Advanced Photovoltaic Systems). One exception with the permission of the Dean of Business & Technology, 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 CET 44 at Sierra College without having taken CET 40 and CET 42.

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. CET 26 Residential House Wiring and Codes
  2. CET 22 Introduction to Energy Efficiency Construction
  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 waitlist?

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

How many units 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.

Degrees and Certificates

As students complete courses for the degree, they also qualify for two skills certificates in solar photovoltaics and are prepared to sit for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam.

Energy Technology Degree Pathway:

Course Degree Paths - Energy

Energy Technology offers an A.S. degree as well as certificates. Certificates are available in Photovoltaic and Photovoltaic Advanced.

The Certificate Programs qualify students for a certificate only in the field of study.  A.S. degree requirements include general education coursework in addition to required certificate courses.

Energy Technology

A.S. Degree

The Energy Technology program prepares students for jobs in the field of renewable energy, such as solar power installation, site supervision, sales, system maintenance and management. Students receive a background in sustainability while gaining specific technical skills related to renewable energy installation. As students complete courses for the degree, they also qualify for two skills certificates in photovoltaics and are prepared to sit for the NABCEP Entry Level Exam.


Skills Certificate

The purpose of the Photovoltaic Skills Certificate is to provide students with the knowledge and skills required to obtain employment as Photovoltaic System Installers and Technicians. Emphasis is on the critical skill competencies as recommended by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners for entry level photovoltaic systems work. A skills certificate is designed to provide career technical skills; it is not equivalent to an associate degree.

Photovoltaic Advanced

Skills Certificate

The purpose of the Photovoltaic Advanced Skills Certificate is to provide students with the knowledge and skills required to obtain employment as Photovoltaic System Installers, Technicians and entry-level Designers. Emphasis is on the critical skill competencies as recommended by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. A skills certificate is designed to provide career technical skills; it is not equivalent to an associate degree.

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