November 27, 2012
The future of the geothermal industry is in great hands thanks to a strategic partnership between Centennial College and GeoSmart Energy. The alliance between education and industry has given students in the Energy System Engineering Technology program unprecedented access to practical hands-on training on a fully-functioning geothermal system at the college’s Progress Campus where it joins other onsite renewable energy systems including wind turbines and solar panels.
In the fall of 2011, GeoSmart Energy installed a two-tonne Premium G forced air unit with a hot water generator in the program’s Renewable Energy Lab. Like any normal residential or commercial project, the vertical loop system enters the lab from outside, connecting to a fully functional flow centre and heat pump inside the lab. The vertical loop consisted of two holes drilled outside the lab at a depth of 200 feet each to accommodate about 400 feet of ¾” PE100 geothermal pipe.
The installation means Centennial College students considering a career within the geothermal industry are discovering firsthand what it means to deliver best practice in the design, installation and maintenance of geothermal systems for residential and commercial customers, laying the foundation for a future generation of geothermal specialists dedicated to service excellence.
“With the growth we’re seeing in the renewable energy sector, particularly in the geothermal industry, we’re going to need highly trained technicians who understand the importance of installing systems properly,” says Chad Brezynskie, Vice President, GeoSmart Energy who also sits on Centennial College’s Program Advisory Committee. “By installing our equipment in colleges dedicated to training skilled tradespeople, we have an opportunity to influence best practice in the industry from conception and design to installation and maintenance and to help shape the geothermal leaders of tomorrow.”
GeoSmart worked closely with the college’s IT team to install an internet-based thermostat on the system making it possible for students to access the heat pump temperature ranges remotely from a smartphone or tablet such as an iPAD, iPhone, Blackberry, Playbook or computer both in and outside the lab.
“We believe in what we call 3-level training,” says Donald Wang, Chair of the Energy Systems Engineering Technology program. “The first level provides students with the fundamentals they need, the second level gives them exposure to some test bench-type applications and the third level exposes them to real-time training.”
Centennial College’s geothermal curriculum is of the highest calibre, evolving from a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the college and the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition (CGC) – the national body whose mandate is to strengthen the industry by setting high standards for training, accreditation, qualification and certification. GeoSmart Energy is one of five industrial partners that contributed to development of the CGC’s training program.
Wang believes it is the real-time training aspect of their program that places it at the forefront in preparing students for career success.
“Students are working with the same equipment at the college that they will be working with in the field,” says Wang, “and we believe that hands-on approach provides them with a distinct advantage when applying for that first job.” The first graduating class in the college’s Energy Systems Engineering Technology program will graduate this spring. Students enrolled in the program have the capacity to branch out into one of three energy sectors including renewable energy, conventional energy and building automation. Students can take a two-year technician course of study or a three year technologist program.
Geothermal technology is covered as part of the program’s Renewable Energy Systems course which involves the description, theory design and operation of renewable energy systems including wind energy, solar systems, geothermal heat pumps, biomass, small hydraulics and fuels cells. Within the geothermal curriculum students cover thermodynamic concepts, design of the heat pump, the various types of heat pumps and their associated application in geothermal energy and geothermal power generation all before entering the lab for hands-on training. Students also receive a solid grounding in heating and refrigeration concepts.
“The hands-on approach in the Renewable Energy Lab is particularly important for students studying to become technicians,” says Program Coordinator El Haidi Maloufi. “Having the flow centre and heat pump in the lab will give them firsthand experience on equipment that they would otherwise not get until they’re working in the field.”
Students who graduate from the Centennial College program are expected to have enough knowledge about geothermal technology to work in the design of heat pumps, as installers or in geothermal sales.
“Not only are these students gaining practical training on a geothermal system,” notes Brezynskie. “They’re working with the most advanced geothermal equipment available on the market today and gaining invaluable insight into how effective design impacts energy efficient and cost effective operation.”
GeoSmart Energy is also working closely with Centennial College to arrange for students to take field trips to the company’s head office, distribution centre and training facility in Cambridge, Ontario. The GeoSmart Energy Academy welcomes over 500 dealers and contractors to its design, installation and service courses each year, and is considered an industry best for geothermal training and education.
Strengthening GeoSmart’s Commitment to Education & Training
The Centennial College program is just one of several college-level programs GeoSmart Energy is involved with in Canada and is an extension of the Cambridge, Ontario company’s longstanding commitment to training excellence.
“Having invested significant resources in training and education at an industry level, it was a natural progression for us to move into the college sector where we believe we can have a positive impact on the future of our industry,” says Brezynskie.
The company completed the installation of a 3-tonne, two-stage geothermal split system at Durham College where the heat pump connects to a ground loop but is integrated with an existing furnace. It also completed a college installation in British Columbia through one of its dealers that consisted of a 2-tonne water-to-water hydronic unit.
GeoSmart Energy is currently working with Conestoga College at its Waterloo campus where it’s completing a vertical loop installation on a 2-tonne Premium G forced air unit, similar to the installation completed at Centennial College.