Durham Tech creates sustainability major

Begins in August

When he drives up the hill on his way to teach class at the Durham Technical Community College campus in Hillsborough, the first thing Christian Stalberg notices are the solar panels — a symbol of the school’s dedication to sustainability.

“That shows a strong commitment,” he said.

On Wednesday nights, Stalberg teaches a course on efficient energy use as part of the college’s sustainability technologies program, which started last fall.

The program is only open to trained electricians — but this August, anyone will be able to apply for the new renewable energy diploma, which can be completed in five semesters.

In response to the wide range of people interested, Durham Tech will offer the new program for individuals without previous electrical training, said Carlo Robustelli, the director of Durham Tech’s Orange County operations.

Admissions for the new program will begin in a few weeks, he said.

“We’ve had an incredible outpouring of folks interested in participating,” Robustelli said.

The interest in the program may be a response to the increasing job opportunities in the sustainable energy industry, said Greg Mimmack, director of both programs.

The sustainability program’s 18 students take classes focused primarily in solar panel installation and energy auditing. Specifically, they learn about energy-saving techniques, like insulation and solar-heated water.

Most of Stalberg’s students are hoping to receive higher wages, start a business or expand their current business upon completion of the three-semester certificate program.

“They’re enthusiastic, and they see the big picture and know that they’re getting an education in a field that there’s going to be great demand for people with knowledge and expertise in this area,” Stalberg said.

Most of the program’s teachers are local professionals in the sustainable energy field. Stalberg works as an energy consultant for Natural Intelligence, a company that certifies buildings as energy-efficient.

Since the program is still in its early stages, Stalberg said he has designed his own curriculum.

“Based on my background and my own training in the energy field, I drew on that when determining what I thought was important,” he said.

Durham Tech received a $250,000 grant from Duke Energy to outfit the campus with technology, including a solar installation lab.

The school is one of several community colleges in North Carolina with new programs in sustainable technology.

“Everybody in the state is sort of starting fresh this year,” Mimmack said.

The college also partnered with energy firms in the state, including Strata Solar and Southern Energy Management, which will provide suggestions for curriculum and hands-on experience for students in the renewable energy program.

“One of the things that community colleges have, Durham Tech especially, is strong relationships with local industries,” Robustelli said.

He said he hopes this collaboration will result in better training and better-paying jobs for students.

“What we try to do is really provide the educational opportunities that will help people find meaningful employment.”

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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