News Archives: GPRC Fairview Heats up Their Competitive Edge
Thursday, June 30th, 2016
GPRC Plumbing apprentice Brenen Kusyk has the knowledge and skills needed to take his career into the field of sustainable energy after getting hands-on experience with a new solar thermal hot water system at the plumbing laboratory in Fairview.
“The new equipment definitely added a lot of knowledge on solar power and information which is different and unique,” says Kusyk.
GPRC has invested in sustainable energy technology in its plumbing and gas fitting laboratory. Giving students hands-on experience with a solar thermal hot water system feeding hot water into the Bob Keddie Trades Instructional Building at GPRC Fairview.
“Students in the program used to learn about sustainable technologies such as the system installed at GPRC in the classroom. Now they take students into the lab to feel the energy harvested from the sun,” says Brett Dillman, Instructor Plumbing Construction and Fabrication Department.
“They can grab onto the pipe, feel the heat from the sun. You can’t draw that on a board.”
This past summer three four-feet by eight-feet panels that can produce 32,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of heat energy per day were hoisted to the roof of the building. They were angled to capture the most energy from the sun during the winter months when the sun is lower in the sky.
The energy collected by the panels then heats the water used to meet the buildings hot water needs, reducing the amount of time the gas-fired boilers need to operate.
“GPRC and the instructors are going above and beyond with the solar system project. It’s innovative,” says Kusyk, a recent plumbing graduate from the Fairview Campus.
In September 2013 the curriculum changed provincially to incorporate more sustainable technology. GPRC taught the content in the classroom but GPRC instructors knew their students would want to see and feel the technology working.
“We wanted to have a working, functioning display for our students to work on,” says Dillman.
GPRC committed the funding to purchase the equipment and it just completed its first winter of operation. New software and computer systems are monitoring the output of the system and plans are to publish the information online so others can see how the system produces in a northern Alberta climate.
It’s a unique commercial setting for the installation of this system. Unlike a home, where people have pretty regular schedules of when they need hot water, the GPRC building has unpredictable and constant use for hot water. This puts additional challenges on the system which the students get to observe.
The system is new and the technology to monitor how much GPRC has reduced its need for natural gas is still being put in place, but they know it’s already making a difference.
“It has limited the amount of time our gas boiler is working as we are harvesting energy from the sun to offset the gas,” says Dillman. “As long as it’s installed we’re going to keep seeing those benefits.”
For students, they’ll leave GPRC with the skills and education to install or maintain the systems opening doors to new opportunities.
“When they actually hold onto the pipe and feel that heat, it opens up some of their thinking and who knows maybe they’ll have a customer that wants a system like this and they’ll have the knowledge to pursue that opportunity,” says Dillman
Kusyk admits he wasn’t sure how effective such a system would be in a northern environment but getting to have some hands-on experience changed his view of the technology.
“It opens up job opportunities, for sure, possibility of branching off into solar systems if you want,” he says.
“The students would have all the training to go into that area and do solar heating installations,” says Dillman. “It does work and we can show you that.”
Special thanks to the individuals responsible for making this project possible:
La prairie crane
Caleffi solar products