It’s 27 degrees, the wind is whipping across the rolling fields and the first thing a visitor sees arriving on NRCC’s Dublin campus is a nimble silver wind turbine spinning above the low, brown buildings flashing in the winter light.
Wind turbines – two more in the distance, with masts 80-feet tall – and two, house-sized, fifty-six-panel solar arrays are scattered in the fields surrounding the school. They are the alternative energy component of the larger NRCC Electronics Technology program, a program that has trained technicians for nearly a decade and now, is beginning to graduate students with alternative energy skills.
Electronics Technology students are applying skills like soldering, wiring and trouble-shooting – practicing on the nimble silver turbine and solar component – to learn theory and skills surrounding solar and wind infrastructure that are increasingly in demand in Virginia.
Two years ago, the state was seventeenth in the nation in solar-panel installation, suddenly leaping to tenth last year, according to a report compiled for the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Now, there are more than 100 solar installers in Virginia, 250 manufacturers and 3, 565 people employed in the Virginia solar industry and the price for solar panels has fallen 43 percent in the last five years.