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Making the switch

Renewable energy courses guide

More and more professionals are retraining to work in the renewable energy sector, writes Sigrid Parker. Inspired to start a new career? Get started with our table of renewable energy courses on page 80.
ow is a perfect time to get into the renewable energy industry. Consumer awareness has never been higher. The sector is growing, there are job opportunities and professionals with energy expertise are needed. Whether your career path is mapped out or you are just looking for extra skills, studying any renewable energy course is bound to open doors. On offer are certificates, diplomas, graduate and masters degrees, postgraduate and PhD research programs through institutions in most major cities and many regional towns. To fit study around working life there are short courses, online courses, evening, parttime and intensive weekend courses for total flexibility. One group of professionals who have jumped on the renewable energy bandwagon in recent times is electricians. Rod Menzies, Accreditation Manager for the Clean Energy Council (CEC), the peak body for clean energy, says the numbers speak for themselves. In 2007 when the CEC was established there were several hundred installers of solar and wind. Two years ago we were about a thousand installers. Now we are 4000, he says. No one ever projected that we would quadruple the number of installers in 24 months. Licensed electriciansor anyone with an electronics or electrical engineering degreehave a head start when it comes to working with solar or small wind systems. To become accredited installers or designers they need to complete accredited training modules.

Brad McEldowney installing remote solar power systems in Fiji.

The modules are grouped into units and can be combined in different ways (see box). Menzies says this is easier than doing long courses and is designed to be more time efficient. Acquiring specialised skills is putting these electricians at the forefront of their industry. It is an investment that the following installers have never looked back from.

Paul Dunne: Grid-connect Design & Install course

Paul Dunne, an electrician of ten years and a self-confessed greenie at heart, combined his passion with business sense. Two years ago, encouraged by colleagues, he enrolled in the Grid-connect

Design and Install modules with Global Sustainable Energy Solutions in NSW. Dunne studied online, finishing with a three-day practical program on campus. The particular course I did was the start of a huge snowball for me as far as my career and my life, Dunne says. (It) has opened up more doors than I could have imagined. On finishing his studies, he teamed up with some like-minded colleagues to found Frog Solutions (Full Range Of Green solutions) in Wollongong. Frog Solutions is very much aimed at everything environmental so it was a good idea at the time when I got my accreditation to have a business to purely focus on that rather than just general electrical work. Green is the hot word of the moReNew 117 77

ment, says Dunne. Everything that we do has an environmental basis behind it. We do the general trade work but where we can save the world, we do.

Brad McEldowney: Grid-connect PV Install course

It was business acumen that prompted Brad McEldowney to seek accreditation as an installer. It was definitely another notch in my belt, he says. McEldowney, an electrician for 19 years, first upskilled six years ago and studied for an environmental engineering degree at Massey University in New Zealand. He then worked on stand-alone solar projects in remote parts of the Pacific installing systems at 150 schools in Fiji, six in the Marshall Islands and was involved with the biggest stand-alone system at the time in Tuvalu. It meant travelling to remote areas, often in arduous conditions, but he saw first-hand the difference technology made to everyday lives on the islands. They were running generators so they had a huge diesel cost, he says. And a lot of the time the diesel runs out. To become accredited to work in Australia, McEldowney completed a Grid-connect PV Install evening course through Brackenridge TAFE near Brisbane. Study was online so he was able to continue working full-time. Since then he and a partner have started their own renewable energy company, Enertech Solar, and are putting others through the TAFE courses. The expense is worth it. The staff becomes trained and competent in these areas, he says. Therefore we can concentrate more on driving the business in the right direction.

designing automation systems, as in lighting control, security systems, communication. Horins corporate clients wanted him to find alternative energy options, in particular solar. I had to admit rather sheepishly that I knew nothing about solar power, he says. So he decided to do something about it. He was 48 years old. He quit his job, studied full-time for two years and graduated with an Advanced Diploma of Renewable Energy Technology, a CEC accredited course, at the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE. Horin relocated to Brisbane as manager of a new energy department for an engineering firm. They were involved in providing consulting services, talking about all sorts of alternativity so that included things like fuel cell technology. He ran feasibility studies for various state governments and local councils on different energy projects. He currently has his own consultancy business as well as working in residential solar for the Mark Group.

Horins passion is smart energy technologies, particularly for business and government. I believe I am very well positioned, he says. We are starting to see a very real corporate movement towards that green area.

Solar, as common as...

One thing is for certain. Renewable energy technology is here to stay. It will always go forward from this point on, says Menzies. Taking heart from the uptake in solar over the last two years, Menzies would like, in the next two years, to see it become a standard household fixture. Id like to see having a solar system on your house as just like having a Hills Hoist in your backyard. Sustainability is the future and all industries are increasingly getting a green tinge. From residential to corporate, commerce to education, engineering to design, change is afoot. Now is the time to study and take advantage of it. R
The course tables on page 80 include just a selection of the courses on offer.

Options overview
Courses are plentiful whether you are studying to keep abreast of new technologies or whether you are planning a career in the renewable energy industry. Options include but are not limited to: ACS Distance Education: general interest courses such as environment studies. TAFE: certificate and diplomas in renewable energies. Universities: bachelor, masters or post-graduate degrees. Research PhDs, some in conjunction with industry, are also options. Possible career paths: unlimited. There are also many peripheral jobs where understanding and knowledge of renewable energy is beneficial.

Study options to become an accredited installer of solar and small wind

Individuals need to complete required accredited training to become accredited with the Clean Energy Council (CEC). The accreditation belongs to the individual and is necessary if customers want to be eligible for government incentives. Study modules can be combined in different ways: Install, Design or Design and Install of Stand-alone photovoltaic (PV) power systems. Install, Design or Design and Install of Grid-connect PV power systems. Small wind, hydro and micro-hydro require extra study. Alternative pathways are through courses such as Certificate IV in Renewable Energy. Prior experience is also recognised through Recognition of Prior Learning.
For more details:

Adrian Horin: Advanced Diploma of Renewable Energy

Age was no deterrent when eight years ago Adrian Horin saw an opportunity. I had been working in the building automation industry, he says. I was
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Professional Training in Environmental Management

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