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An education in sustainability

By Fritz Mayer
November 20, 2012

The college is doubling down on the bet that sustainable energy is the future of the region with the opening of what it calls a “state-of-the-art” sustainability lab.

The lab is located at Sullivan County Community College (SCCC), and includes facilities that help students learn about the nuts and bolts of wind turbines, solar panel arrays, traditional heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems and generators.

Outside the lab, there are working installations of solar panels, a small wind turbine, the pump house that runs the college’s geothermal system, a straw-bale structure and a community garden. All of this forms what the college calls a sustainability cluster.

The college received a $179,000 grant to purchase the simulators and educational materials for the lab and specifically for the Green Building Maintenance and Management and Wind Turbine Technology programs.

“Our sustainability programs are transforming the campus into a ‘living laboratory’ that models the principles we’re talking about in classes,” said professor Helena le Roux. “The lab trainers prepare our students to interface really well with our installed systems; they can actually see them functioning as part of the building and contributing to the college campus.”

The lab primarily serves the green curriculum at the college, but it can also be used as training for heating, cooling and power generation technologies for other organizations and companies.

“These trainers provide a new take on skills that have been around for a long time,” said le Roux. “We’re teaching foundational skills that have application in traditional careers and the growing ‘green collar’ jobs.” Wind turbine instructor Larry Reeger added, “Our goal is to see SUNY Sullivan become a model for how a sustainable campus can be operated, and these trainers will give students the hands-on experience and practice they need to make that happen.”