Around the world, there are hundreds of reputed training courses for solar power. For kiwis, however, it has been difficult to find an easily accessible, locally conducted, full-fledged solar energy training offered by a tertiary institute - until now!
The New Zealand Institute of Highway Technology is now offering a near-comprehensive set of training programs for those who aspire to have a career in the fascinating world of solar power. Each of the programs is supported by the Sustainable Energy Association of New Zealand (SEANZ). Let us discuss the programs in some more detail.
What are the Available Solar Training Courses?
NZIHT offers three different training programs, covering the design and installation aspects of three types of solar power systems - grid-connected, grid-connected with battery backup, and stand-alone. According to NZIHT, the courses are designed to ensure that the participants understand the operating theory and safety requirements in order to both design and install safe and effective systems as well as fault-find and maintain existing systems.
Each course is divided into two or three components - the first is a self-learning module that can be completed online, the second is a 3-day, 24-hour face-to-face learning component in New Plymouth, and the third (for programs 2 and 3) is a post-training assignment. The courses fetch 10 or 20 credits under the NZQA framework.
Based on the selected course and the applicant’s resident status, the fees vary from $600 to $2500. All three programs are suitable for anyone from an electrical technology background. Every participant must be a registered electrical worker holding a current practising license to be eligible for the courses.
The courses are as follows:
1. Grid-Connected PV Systems (GCPV): Design and Installation
The first, basic training program offered by NZIHT deals with grid-tied solar systems suitable for homes or in larger, commercial applications. This is a pre-requisite course for the two advanced courses that follow.
The course includes 96-hour pre-course learning followed by 24 hours (3 days) of face-to-face lectures conducted in New Plymouth. Students enrolling in this course will have to pay a $600 ($1,250 for international) fee, and will receive 10 credits as per the NZQA framework for registered micro-credentials.
By the end of the course, the candidates will be able to assess a site, create load vs. PV profiles, select components and finally design and install a grid-connected system. They should also be able to commission and fault-find grid-tied systems. The course also touches on regulations, standards and safety requirements and potential hazards for GCPV systems.
2. Grid-Connected Battery Storage Systems: Design and Installation
The second program in this series goes a step ahead of the GCPV course and introduces battery storage systems along with solar. It has 100 hours of flexible, pre-course learning and a 24-hour, 3-day face-to-face lecture schedule. Unlike the previous program, this one also includes a 16-hour assignment at the end of it.
This program also fetches participants 10 NZQA credits, and requires a current electrical worker license to be eligible. In addition to the topics covered in the GCPV course, this course covers the different battery chemistries, technologies, and architectures. The fee for this program is similar to the GCPV - $600 for NZ residents and $1,250 for others.
3. Stand Alone Power Systems: Design and Installation (SAPS)
The third and final training program offered by NZIHT uses the knowledge from the first two courses and builds upon them. The course trains participants to be able to design and install stand-alone power systems (SAPS). Such systems are useful in applications such as remote monitoring stations or off-grid households and even village electrification.
The SAPS program is also divided into three parts - a 100-hour pre-course learning section, a 3-day, 24-hour face-to-face section and finally a 16-hour post-course assignment. The course requires participants to put in more hours of work, and awards them with 20 credits - double that of the first two programs. The course fees are $1,200 for domestic students and $2,500 for international ones.
Aside from the information covered in the first two programs, the SAPS course will cover battery technology in greater detail. The program will also touch on backup generators and other off-grid power sources such as wind and micro-hydro generation to run in tandem with solar power.
The following table gives an overview of all three courses offered:
|Grid-Connected PV Systems||Grid-Connected Battery Storage Systems||Stand Alone Power Systems|
|Learning||96-hour pre-course learning
24-hour face-to-face lectures
100-hour pre-course learning
|100-hour pre-course learning
24-hour face-to-face lectures
16-hour post-course assignment
|NZQA credits||10 credits||10 credits||20 credits|
|Fees||$650 ($1,250 for international students)||$650 ($1,250 for international students)||$1,200 ($2,500 for international students)|
New Zealand’s solar industry is undergoing a seismic shift. More and more homeowners and businesses are adopting solar technology owing to its obvious positive impact on their savings and the environment. As such, the industry requires more people to survey sites, design and install systems and maintain them.
Unfortunately, for quite some time, NZ has not had certified courses that could turn aspiring candidates into solar technicians and professionals. But finally, the NZIHT makes this possible with its three program offering that allows licensed electrical workers to enter the booming solar sector. The courses require only a few days’ worth of work and fees going just up to $1,250 (up to $2,500 for international candidates). The courses are comprehensive in nature and offer a lot of practical information.
The only thing missing might be an additional module that gives the candidates hands-on experience in all three types of systems. Nevertheless, it is a great start, and we hope more such programs become available soon.