A renewable energy group has agreed to donate a solar system to the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Training Institute (BTVI), and develop a curriculum for students leading to certification in solar energy.
"We are really pleased to have someone of the background and expertise of Philip Holdom to come into BTVI and do this," said Robert W. Robertson, president of the institute that has some 2,000 students on its Nassau campus.
"This is a trade school, and this is exactly the kind of partnership that provides us with the ability to train those who want to advance their skills, and others who want to train to fill needed positions. There is a lot of growth in this area and we expect there will be a great response to the offering."
Mr Holdom, founder of Alternative Power Supply (APS) and co-founder of Sustainable Energy Bahamas, said recent policy changes combined with advances in solar power systems were driving increased demand for renewables.
"The new national energy legislation has opened up the possibility of using multiple solar technologies for the private and public sector," Mr Holdom said. "Whether off-grid, grid tied or grid interactive technologies are used, there is an immediate need for people trained in renewable energy, science, math and system programming.
"Levels of certification will range from basic solar theory and installation practices (101) to intermediate and advanced courses in renewable energy design, installation and programming (201 & 301)."
Mr Holdom installed his first solar systems 27 years ago in Rum Cay and Long Island. His companies are now part of the consortium that includes Sustainable Energy Ltd, a Bahamian firm, and together the group has a combined 50-year installation history in renewable energy with 370 Mega Watts (MW) of solar installs between the Bahamas and Europe.
As solar power gains momentum, one of the Bahamas' most critical needs will be to train and certify Ministry of Work inspectors and electricians, said BTVI's associate vice-president of academic affairs, Leroy Sumner.
BTVI officials and Mr Holdom said solar systems are currently too often being installed incorrectly by untrained persons, resulting in unsafe and sometimes dangerous installations for residential or commercial customers. That is also a concern for Bahamas Power & Light (BPL).
"At the end of the day, the desire is for the solar experience to be a good experience," said BTVI chairman, and former BEC general manager, Kevin Basden. "What I see is a new horizon, a whole new market, but we have to make sure we get it right."
Zev Crystal, Sustainable Energy's co-founder and chief executive, who was not present at the September 18 BTVI meeting, said renewable energy meant new jobs and energy independence.
"Through this training programme and the certification by BTVI, we will be able to plug youth directly into jobs because we will have skilled solar practitioners and safe installers," he added.
"We will have people who know how to install, inspect, operate, programme and monitor state-of-the-art renewable energy systems. It is all about energy independence and job creation, and this partnership with BTVI will help us to achieve that."
Mr Holdom has been waging a 10-year campaign for legislation, the creation of a renewable energy standard in the Bahamas, and to train Bahamians to install, operate and maintain solar systems.
"This process will accelerate our nation towards an energy source that reduces costs, improves quality and consistency of power distribution, and is much gentler on the environment," said Mr Holdom, who will train the instructors at BTVI.
The first course is scheduled to start by mid-October, and will provide students with experience in installing a low voltage solar system from start to finish, plus basic knowledge of how renewable energy systems work.
Students who complete that course will be able to take more advanced courses in higher voltage systems; design; safety components; and system programming. Graduates will have solar certifications that enable employers to gauge knowledge and skill level.