Lessons learned from ecotech education
“I was there when we cut the ribbon, well, when we announced that Ecotech Institute was coming to Aurora, Colorado…. When the Education Corporation of America saw this particular space as the space that would be part of the future of our country and then chose Colorado to be there, we were elated…. Many people asked us, ‘Ok, if you build this [clean economy] out where are the people that are gonna work in the industry, where are they going to come from?’ We think that the Ecotech Institute is one very important part of that.” ~Bill Ritter, Former Governor of Colorado and Director of the Colorado State Center for the New Energy Economy.
If you build it, they will come, indeed. As far back as 2008, Education Corporation of America (ECA) identified a growing gap between the demand for cleantech jobs and the supply of trained cleantech workers. After nearly two years of market research involving potential students, potential employers, government leaders and industry leaders, ECA determined that there was a real need and opportunity to create a college focused on technical skills training in renewable energy and sustainability.
ECA collaborated closely with industry leaders, other educational institutions, and environmental leaders to first define the needed skills and programs that would meet the needs of both potential students and employers. Then, we worked with the same groups to develop the curricula to meet both academic requirements and the emerging needs of the clean energy industry. The resulting Ecotech Institute is the first and only college entirely focused on preparing students for careers in renewable energy and sustainable design—the ecotech jobs of the new green economy.
ECA invested approximately $10 million to transform an existing large-footprint building in Aurora, Colorado into a state-of-the-art LEED Gold campus featuring 30 classrooms, 12 state of the art computer and science labs (e.g. electrical, wiring, solar, wind safety, controls and environmental science), and studios, student and faculty lounges, a library, and a variety of other amenities.
Ecotech Institute renewable energy features include:
- Eight small wind turbines mounted on the roof to generate up to 4.8 kilowatts of electricity
- A vertical axis wind turbine to generate a total capacity of 4 kilowatts
- Twelve polycrystalline rooftop photovoltaic solar panels with a system capacity of 2.8 kilowatts
- Integral thin solar technologies embedded into the glass of the front building canopy with a capacity of 9.4 kilowatts
- Two solar trees, each providing 16.9 kilowatts of electricity, which will generate over 50,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity
- Four electric car charging stations, capable of delivering a full vehicle charge in two to four hours
All told, the campus gets more than five percent of its peak load electricity from wind and solar sources and generates over 65,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually.