BATAVIA — Class will meet for the first time in the fall as Genesee Community College launches its new Solar Electric Technician to give students a path to an associate’s degree and some more career possibilities.

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Kate Schiefen said the solar certificate for the program is 15 credit hours and can be used toward an associate in applied science (AAS) degree in individualized studies.

GCC says the courses provide foundational knowledge in safety, tools, testing equipment and hands-on learning for employment in residential and/or commercial solar installation as well as for the “do-it-yourself” individual. The career possibilities include residential solar panel installer, commercial solar grid installer, RV and solar package installer, solar sales and solar electric maintenance and troubleshooting. Students who want to continue their education can apply all SUNY general education credits to SUNY four-year colleges.

GCC sais students will be able to start registering for the program April 1. There are 84 total credits required for the AAS degree — 24 credits of GCC core requirement courses and 60 credits from solar program requirement courses. She said GCC would cap registration at 12 students for the class.

“The college invested a lot of time and energy just in the renovation of the room itself,” Schiefen said. “I was not involved in that.I told them what we needed and they did that.”

Schiefen said GCC purchased the hand tools and electrical tools that are required for the program.

On Friday, the college held an open house in the solar lab in the Steiner Theatre building on the Batavia campus. Schiefen said the space had to be gutted and renovated. Equipment for the students to use had to be bought.

“It’s been about a two-year project — right in the middle of COVID, too,” she said.

Schiefen and Vice President, Development & External Affairs Justin Johnston said there had to be SUNY and state approval for the program.

Johnston said the lab space was previously used for drafting.

“Repurposing of the space is cheaper than building out a new building. We’re smart with our resources. The community’s really excited about this ...”

Chris Kemp, director of math and engineering science at GCC, said he teaches math in addition to administrative duties. He said he will also help teach solar classes.

“The lab just got finished with its installation last week and it was a huge financial commitment to it,” Kemp said Friday during the open house. “We’ve got a ton of businesses around that want to work with us. It’s going to be a great thing.”

Mark Chase and Mike Schmitt, residential and commercial electrical teachers at Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES in Spencerport, visited the lab with a group of students.

“We’re doing PV (photovoltaic) inside of the program within our curriculum. We do residential in year one and commercial in year two,” Chase said. “In year one and year two, we put the photovoltaic element into each year.”

Chase said one of the BOCES students, TJ Kurtz, is enrolled next year at GCC.

“He’s actually going to be in this photovoltaic program,” Chase said. “The reason we wanted to bring them here is we wanted the kids to understand that, after leaving us, there are options for post-secondary to continue on with this. This is a way-more-in-depth program in solar than we can give them. These guys are going to have way more connections with local installers and contractors.”

Kurtz, a senior at Athena High School in the Greece Central School District, said he learned a lot on the tour of the lab Friday. He plans to start in the fall at GCC.

“It has a lot of possibilities — a lot of career opportunities,” he said.

Adked about the costs to enroll in the program, Johnston said tuition and fees are $2,620 per semester for full-time students, or $215 per credit hour for part-time students.

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