Home > Scrolls/Stories > Wind and solar power at SPCC

July 5, 2011

SPCC class prepares students for career in green power

MONROE – Technology in green power is changing so fast, Dennis Baucom said, that “Every time I get on the Internet, I see something new.”

Baucom, South Piedmont Community College’s director of vocational trades, teaches a class in solar and wind energy and wants to make sure his students have the knowledge and hands-on experience they need to be prepared for those rapid changes.

His class, which meets at the Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center on Airport Road, recently installed a wind turbine and a solar panel array that can power the center’s flexible manufacturing system for short periods of time.

“It can run it for about an hour on a full charge,” Baucom said. “The students did all the work.“

The class met for four weeks. Because it was the first installation for the students, and for Baucom, “They had to do some planning,” he said. “That’s part of the class, too. They probably spent a solid week on the install.”

When they were done, they had installed a 340-watt solar array on the ground near the front door and a wind turbine on the roof just above and to the left of the door. The electricity generated by the two units is fed into four batteries inside the building and that energy is converted from DC power into AC power to run the flexible manufacturing system that is used by Russell Carpenter’s advanced manufacturing students.

Carpenter has taught some green power classes in the past, but this was the first class to have this caliber of equipment. The kit for the solar panels and wind turbine cost about $5,000, and the school spent an additional $1,000 on other items.

Baucom noted that for this first installation, some things were done with student safety in mind. For example, instead of being 20 feet in the air, the solar panel can be reached with a small stepladder. The wind turbine is where it can be reached easily from a lower section of the roof. “We did look at different applications with the install,” Baucom said. “The reason we went with what we did was for the safety of the students.”


Dennis Baucom, SPCC’s director of vocational trades, talks about the solar panel array his Solar and Wind Energy students put together at SPCC’s Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center on Airport Road. 

Some of the additional expense was to make the solar panel safer and sturdier. “We had to add to what we bought just to make it safer,” he said. “That just lets you know there’s nobody around here who’s set up to do this like it should be done.

“It’s not only training, but we also emphasized there’s not a whole lot of solar businesses locally,” Baucom said. “Creating your own business is part of it. This stuff’s coming. Russell and I found that there are really not a lot of local companies that do everything.”

For instance, Baucom said, a homeowner trying to purchase such a system might have batteries that come from Virginia and installers who come from Georgia.

Baucom said that at least two of the 10 students in the last class were interested in starting their own business. “I don’t know where they’ll go with it,” he said. “I feel like even if they don’t start their own business, they’ll take this and do something on their own.”

Depending on the budget for the coming year, Baucom would like to leave the solar panels and wind turbine in place and purchase a new kit for the next class. “If we don’t get the budget money, we’ll probably tear it down and have the students do a different application,” he said.

Baucom has an evening class scheduled in August and an afternoon class scheduled in October. For information, he can be reached at 704-290-5222.

A wind turbine sits atop SPCC’s Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center on Airport Road. Put together by students in the Solar and Wind Energy class, the turbine can help power the center’s flexible manufacturing system.

Learn more about SPCC's advanced manufacturing and CNC programs:

MechatronicsSolar technologyMachining Technology - CNC