The time for solar power in Oklahoma is coming.

With that in mind, High Plains Technology Center is offering classes for state contractors to learn the fundamentals of solar technology at its Integrated Energy Training Center.

Bronson Ellis, the center’s energy and safety training coordinator, said High Plains put two groups of contractors through two-day classes on solar power after a Feb. 14 open house to introduce the new program.

Ellis said the free classes were an effort to boost the profile of solar energy.

“It’s just so new in Oklahoma,” he said. “There’s not a lot of solar going on.”

Ellis said High Plains’ early solar classes will focus on the basics, including the benefits of solar power and how to sell it.

He said classes will be offered as needed until more people become interested in the program.

“Our main goal is getting the knowledge out there, trying to create a market out there,” Ellis said.

Shawna McWaters-Khalousi, director of the state Commerce Department’s Oklahoma Project Green, said she expects the High Plains program to benefit the state.

McWaters-Khalousi said establishing a pool of trained workers could attract solar businesses to Oklahoma.

“That’s good for everybody,” she said.

McWaters-Khalousi said she is excited about the potential of the new solar program in Woodward, which she called a perfect fit with High Plains wind power curriculum.

“I can’t say enough good things about it,” she said. “It has such potential.”

She said continued technological innovations likely will make solar power affordable for more people, so Oklahoma needs to be in position to capitalize on another of its natural resources.

Oklahoma City Community College has had a solar technician training program since 2009 and East Central University in Ada is adding a solar program too.

Ellis said Oklahoma is a good place for solar power since the state averages up to six hours of peak sun a day.

The main stumbling block for solar now is cost.

Without any state incentives, Ellis said, it can cost about $20,000 to equip an average-sized home with photovoltaic panels capable of turning the sun’s rays into electricity.

He said solar cells can be a good alternative to generators in case of weather-related power outages.

The best option in Oklahoma right now may be solar-powered water pumps, which are easier to maintain than windmills, Ellis said.

Solar power also can be used in place of natural gas for heating household water, he said.

source: newsok