Road to Florida's Future in Alternative Energy

Florida ranks highest in the country in per capita residential electricity demand, and is a top consumer of petroleum-fired electricity in the nation. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration). The present scenario calls for immediate action, and legislators, educators and industry leaders are joining hands to design sustainable initiatives that support the 21st century energy age.

The Alternative Energy Systems Specialist college credit certificate, for example, is a new specialization that will be offered as part of the A.S./A.A.S degree in Engineering Technology at Brevard Community College in Fall 2010. The program is a direct response to a 2008 legislative action directing the Florida Energy Systems Consortium (FESC), and the State’s University and State College systems to conduct applied energy-related research, and develop specific technical education pathways that will allow Florida to meet its 2020 energy generation and demand criteria.

As part of this effort, FLATE was commissioned by the Florida Legislature to determine expected skills that are needed to support this new energy reality. FLATE’s will find common skills that cross various alternate energy technologies, and assess the current and projected status of curriculum for such engineering and technical education. Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE says “As the need for optimizing energy generation and investment in renewable energy technologies intensifies, the need for engineering and technical professionals is emerging as part of a new reality.”

Indeed, the new Engineering Technology Alternative Energy Systems Specialization Certificate program was developed with input from industry and academic stakeholders from across the state, and is targeted to help students acquire industry-specific skills needed by technicians in the new and emerging alternative and renewable energy fields. Sheryl Awtonomow, director of career and technical programs at Brevard Community College is excited about the potential impact. “We are truly gearing up for the future as movement is made toward reducing green house gas emissions and oil dependency in our state and the nation as a whole.”

Course content is largely solar, and interwoven with laboratory work for hands-on experience. The program also provides supplemental training for persons previously or currently employed in occupations related to energy production, distribution and storage.

The road ahead looks promising. Graduates have a variety of career options (electrical/industrial engineering technicians, solar photovoltaic installer, solar power plant technician, energy auditor, and smart grid technician etc) that are transferable across industries. Moreover, construction of a large system at TECO farms in Polk County, a proposed solar/biomass system for Harmony, FL, a 10 MW system and a 100MW farm in Brevard county is likely to create jobs where graduates can find employment.

Curriculum frameworks for the Alternative Energy Systems Specialist certificate are posted on the Florida Department of Education Career Website, www.fldoe.org/workforce . Several other community colleges are also exploring the possibility of adopting the program. For more information contact Sheryl Awtononow at awtonomows@brevardcc.edu. For information on the ET degree and ongoing FLATE-FESC energy initiatives contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.madeinflorida.org/ET_Degree.