Red Rocks’ students gain valuable green tech experience

Solar panel array helps to power Lakewood campus, provides hands-on learning

LAKEWOOD, CO – Red Rocks Community College is truly green. Not only do students get to learn from experience working with energy-conserving technology such as a 9,760-watt photovoltaic array collecting about a kilowatt-hour of energy per sunny day, the power produced is used to reduce the Environmental Training Center’s need for electricity by nearly half.

“I pride myself on giving students a well-rounded education in energy. We promote green technology from the ground up: we teach that it’s better to make a house energy-efficient before adding solar power, “ said Larry Snyder, the renewable energy program chair.

Red Rocks instructs in energy-efficient building, energy technology like solar panels and wind-power collectors, and even green heating and cooling. Students get a large amount of hands-on experience working with equipment and technology crucial to their field.

“The photovoltaic array near the Environmental Training Center provides a framework for instruction, evaluation and troubleshooting during labs, and is additionally utilized by the physics department. Some teachers also employ the online data in their classes,” said Troy Wanek, a renewable energy instructor.

In addition to the photovoltaic setup, which collects energy from the sun to be used for electricity, Red Rocks also has a set of solar panels that turn the energy they collect into heat. These thermal panels are an invaluable teaching aid for heating classes and energy efficiency classes as well as a physics of energy class. They supply radiant heat to the RRCC greenhouse, gently warming the sandy floor to enable botany classes to study a wide variety of plants and their care year-round.

The greater part of Red Rocks’ technical instructors work in their field during the day then come to school in the evening to improve their profession by passing on the skills they use every day.

“We schedule our classes in the evenings so that a student can earn the baseline certification in their energy discipline, whether it’s photovoltaic solar, thermal solar, wind power or general energy efficiency, then go out and get the job. Then, while working, they can level up their knowledge by earning the next certificate or continuing toward completion of an associate degree,” Snyder said.

Students in the advanced photovoltaic class installed the panels during 2009 and 2010. Red Rocks’ renewable energy program is often widely regarded as one of the best in the country. They have also partnered with Al-Balqa’ Applied University, a school part of Al-Huson College in the kingdom of Jordan, in their solar technician training program, using a US AID grant to help fund instruction of renewable energy professionals there.

More about the renewable energy program: Red Rocks Community College offers quality instruction leading to degrees and certificates in photovoltaic solar technology, thermal energy technology, energy efficiency, and wind energy technology. For more information go to

More about the Environmental Training Center: The ETC at Red Rocks Community College’s Lakewood campus is one of only 12 centers nationwide where students acquire the knowledge and skillset needed to develop a successful career in environmental technology. The center is also the home of the only Water Quality Management and Technology degree program in Colorado. Visit for more information.

More about Red Rocks Community College: Since 1969, Red Rocks Community College has educated students of all ages and backgrounds. RRCC offers more than 300 programs leading to two-year degrees or professional certificates and serves over 15,000 students per year at campus locations in Lakewood and Arvada. For further info please visit

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