TYLER — Tyler Junior College’s West Campus turned greener a few days ago when solar panels were installed on its roof.

The panels are part of the college's power plant technology program.

Chris Greschuk is coordinator for the program that isn't offered anywhere else in Texas.

“We train young operators in how to operate power plant equipment, maintain those things and keep the energy flowing for all the hospitals, industries and homes in the country,” Greschuk said.

The TJC West Campus specialized in technical education, offering programs for industrial trades such as welding, electrical and automotive technology and small business development.

The solar panels were installed last week to broaden the power plant technology program.

“When the building was built, we had intended to make it a green building. But as a consequence, solar was the last to come in, and so we’re now adding solar into the program to feed that energy back into the building to take care of certain circuits and things like that,” Greschuk said.

The introduction of the solar panels has a twofold effect on the campus. Not only does it provide a new learning tool for the students, it improves the energy efficiency of the campus itself, he said.

Each of the solar panels has a sensor that provides voltage output data that the students are able to monitor; students can use that information to monitor the solar power consumption of the building as a whole, Greschuk said.

“The industry is changing, because the primary means of generation of electricity has been coal and natural gas and fossil fuels,” Greschuk said. “But because the global warming issues and some of the (Environmental Protection Agency) concerns, the community is really moving away from fossil fuel-based energy generation to more renewable type sources such as wind and solar.”

Housed within the West Campus Energy Center is an entire mock home, complete with separate electrical circuits and heating and air conditioning systems to help the students learn and practice their skills. A new breaker box has just been added to the home, to tie into the newly installed solar panels. 

“A lot of students have expressed interest, not only in electricity, but in the green aspects of energy generation,” Greschuk said. “Solar kind of complements what we’re doing with our basic curriculum in that we’re adding the ability to study solar, understand its operations and possibly move forward with the development and operation of solar farms in the future.”