August 2021

A new solar education lab and array at the University of Arkansas of Hope-Texarkana is currently under construction. Renderings by MAHG Architecture

plants with a small emphasis on wind and solar energy. By adding the new solar lab, UAHT will increase the depth of instruction on solar energy. “We started making changes to include renewable energies several years ago, so the students were exposed to more than coal fire because we know that is probably not going to be on the horizon,” Clark explained. “Solar, wind and hydro are the things of the future, so we started introducing that

be at the Hope campus and occupy approximately seven acres. The design will allow for students to gain a real-world understanding of solar energy and provide some electricity for UAHT, making the campus more energy efficient as well. Funding for the lab was gained largely through grants, including an AEP SWEPCO Foundation award of $200,000. Entegrity Energy Partners was selected to design and install the solar project. First Solar and

technology.” She elaborated on how the introduction of alternate fuel sources had opened their eyes to the need for both further education and more technicians in our area and across the state of Arkansas. “About three years ago, Arkansas was 36th in the nation in terms of the use of solar energy and we are already 30th. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association website, Arkansas has over 43,550 homes powered by solar energy. There are 30 solar companies in the state, yet we don’t have a Solar installation program in the state of Arkansas at all,” said Clark. She elaborated on the need for technicians and training and the value that this adds to our community, “There’s really not a workforce for solar.

Instead, the few trained technicians are being pulled elsewhere… solar panels and other equipment are becoming more affordable, and more people are interested in alternative fuel sources. So, by training technicians to be able to install and repair solar equipment, we will be able to contribute to homes and industries being able to use more solar energy.” As part of the degree, students will gain a Certificate of Proficiency in Solar Technology. The curriculum and lab are modeled after the Solar Energy International Lab in Colorado. Classroom knowledge and hands-on learning are combined through the lab’s setup where students will install and uninstall several types of solar arrays. The lab itself will

OMCO Solar are donating solar modules and racking equipment. The projected completion of the lab is set for December 2021, so the first group of students is already enrolling in the classroom curriculum portion of the certification, and they should be able to continue with installation classes in the spring semester 2022. “I hope to give our students a credential that’s going to be very employable in the future. I think that’s very important,” said Clark. “By creating a workforce, we may also be able to bring in businesses and industry to our area that produce or create and design solar array. We know there are jobs out there and that our students can get those jobs. When a company is saying that they want to build


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