Efforts are underway to ensure that Barbados has a trained cadre of personnel, to propel the island in the forefront of pioneering Photovoltaic (PV) technologies and renewable energy advancements.
The Caribbean PV Installation Training Agency (CARIPITA) has within the past few months been offering certified courses in PV design and installation and renewable energy.
Already 34 persons have taken advantage of the tuition and a third batch of students is currently enrolled in training.
Renewable energy pioneer, Mr. William Hinds, who developed the curriculum for the CARIPITA course, said it has been written for technical vocational levels of attainment.
Targeting electrical engineers, persons with a background in electronics, persons and graduate students with at least five CXC O levels, he explained that the course comprises a minimum of 15 hours of lectures and 30 hours of practical work. At the end of the training, participants would have achieved competency in determining all components needed for PV systems, predicting the relationship between voltage and current of PV panels for various loads, solar intensities and panels, determining installation methods and developing installation safety procedures and maintenance checks.
In order to be certified as a PV technician, students enrolling in the programme must acquire 15 hours of work experience on PV projects. This may be a project of their own or they may be assigned to one on the several projects associated with CARIPITA team and affiliated agencies.
Candidates will also be expected to prepare a design and installation plan for two solar PV projects and be involved for 10 hours in installing or monitoring another over a 10 week period.
The renewable energy course explores options and opportunities in solar electricity and thermal energy, wind and wave energy, geothermal production, tidal energy and ocean cooling.
CARIPITA is in the process of seeking accreditation for the programme as well as an alignment with international training agencies worldwide. For a technical vocational standard to be established it has to be proposed by one of the national vocational agencies to the CARICOM Secretariat. Hinds revealed that the Technical Vocational Education Training Council (TVET) is encouraging CARIPITA to propose this training course as the Caribbean PV Installation Standard, by first submitting it for consideration by their office. TVET has already offered grant financing of the course which will be offered to participants as a discount against course fees.
Plans to make the PV training available across the region are also being advanced. A new course is in fact to be hosted in Trinidad in September. Hinds noted “We have just reached agreement with a Trinidad company to be the focal point for training in that country.”
Discussions were also held with representatives from Antigua, St. Kitts and several other Caribbean countries. Hinds revealed that the course was submitted to the CARICOM Secretariat Energy Desk and that CARIPITA has already held discussions with the Energy Manager of the CARICOM Secretariat.
The explosion in the photovoltaic (PV) business across the globe has taken place at such a rate within the last four years, that there are just not enough persons trained in PV technology. CARIPITA believes that in five years the PV installation market will be in the millions if not tens of millions of dollars. So beyond providing a foundation of renewable energy advancement through training, the Agency is moving to ensure that sources of financing are available for viable projects. Hinds noted “We will soon approach the local funding agencies to determine if they will provide loans to PV installer entrepreneurs.”
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