FVCC courses teach alternative energy

by Chris Paulus
MAPLE PARK—As the debate regarding alternative energy and the credibility and the consequences of climate change continues, there are individuals attempting to bring reason, skill, science and action to the table.

Jay Markuson is an electrician and Kaneland High School educator who has decided to use his knowledge of business and electricity to teach students how to understand, use and install alternative energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines.

Markuson and Rick Burchell, the coordinator of the program, have also had a lot of assistance from several local businesses through donations of materials and money, including Steiner Electric in St. Charles, Old Second Bank in Elburn, Johnson Controls in Geneva, Dakota Construction in Maple Park (Markuson’s business), Uni-Loc Pavers in Aurora, Lawn Boys in Geneva, the Kaneland Foundation and Valee’s.

“The batteries (for the solar panels) came from Johnson Controls. Steiner Electric donated the conduit. Many donated money for the project. We just got some grant money from the Kaneland Foundation,” Markuson said. “We also have the converter that converts the energy from 12 volt DC power to 120 volt AC power.”

The classes are called Electrician 1 and 2, and are taught at the Fox Valley Career Center (FVCC). The class is open to juniors and seniors from high schools that feed into the career center, including Kaneland, St. Charles East and North, Burlington, West Aurora, Geneva and Batavia.

Markuson took over the class last year and said that he recognized the trend of “going green.” He wanted students to be well-prepared for that.

“The kids do house wiring and troubleshooting, but we’re trying to bring that into a broader view of what electricity involves,” Markuson said.

Markuson’s students learn about how these energies work, and they also design the panels and install them on their own. They’ve currently installed solar panels to light up the new entrance to the FVCC, receiving help from the welding class to retrofit the poles for the turbine.

The class’ next projects are equally ambitious: the installation of a wind turbine for the school, and the acquisition of solar panels for use to light up Kaneland’s football stadium.

“It’s a five-year project. I have my Intro to Electricity class do a good part of the work because it’s labor-intensive,” Markuson said. “We have to pull all of the wires and install everything. We have to get the measurements right. I take about two weeks out of the year, total, to work on the project.”

Markuson said the project will require the raising of more funds and equipment before it can be completed.

According to Markuson, the students are excited about the prospects alternative energy prospect.

“The kids are really interested. There’s so much money from grants and alternative energy from the government and the state, Markuson said. “Curriculum-wise, local businesses are interested in it, as well. The Kaneland Foundation has been supportive, (too). I don’t know if there’s another high school in the state in which the kids designed the solar panels and installed them, as well.”