A few Franciscan nuns are hosting Iowa’s newest training center for local electricians and plumbers who want to learn to install solar panels and solar-heated water systems.
There was a groundbreaking Wednesday for the Iowa Renewable Energy Installation Training Center. It’s located at the Prairie Woods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha.
“This is God’s creation and we have a responsibility to take care of it,” says Sister Helen Elsbernd, the center’s director.
The Catholic center soon will host a government facility to provide hands-on training so technicians can learn to install solar energy systems. Mike Carberry of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association says local home owners and businesses will benefit as the technicians will install more affordable solar panels and hot water systems in the area.
“There is a demand for PV, or photovoltaic, and solar thermal, but to get trained to do that — it really takes electricians and plumbers to do it, but it’s a skill they normally don’t learn. And right now to get that training they have to drive at least five hours from Cedar Rapids to Custer, Wisconsin, to get trained by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association,” he says. “We thought that, you know, we’ve been doing some training here in Iowa the last few years. Why shouldn’t we be able to get them trained here?”
State and federal grants, as well as private contributions, are financing the $100,000 center.