Produced by the Advanced 
Transportation Technology 
and Energy Initiative
Call Toll Free:
Sponsored by the California 
Community College 
Chancellor's Office and 
Economic and Workforce 
Development Through
the California Community 

Welcome to the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) Project


Welcome to the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) Project.

As a partnership program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the California Communtiy Colleges, the Advanced Transportation Technology & Energy Initiative, the Hawaii University System, the California Energy Commission, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the National Electrical Contractors Association, and the Center for Sustainable Energy California.

The SITN identifies and supplements training resources through out regions in California and Hawaii. The SITN helps to create extensive partnership resources available to all public and colleges entities. It provides technical training for community colleges and othe public school faculty who want to improve or expand their technical capabilities realted to Solar instruction.


California and Hawaii, Region 8, SITN Program

The California-Hawaii Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) program and GRID Alternatives are again cooperating to provide real-world, hands-on PV installation opportunities for California community college (CCC) students and faculty.  As last year’s GRID-College joint projects were so mutually beneficial, GRID Alternatives has generously agreed to host 6 community college teams at diverse locations around the state to work on actual installs late in Spring 2014 or Summer 2014 semesters.   These installations are considered “real” in that they are recognized as experience toward employment and various entry and advanced certifications for students and faculty.  The SITN grant will support this training by reimbursing GRID Alternative for its fees and expenses.  No funding is provided to participating colleges, nor is there any charge to these colleges.

GRID Alternatives is a non-profit solar installer which leads teams to install solar PV systems exclusively for low-income households. Each GRID Alternative installation can accommodate 10 students (or students plus instructor if the instructor also participates in the hands-on activity). The typical installation is of 2 days duration; approximately 8 AM to 4 PM. Additional details are provided below. One of the selection criteria for collections will be location.  Our intent is to allow regionally diverse Community Colleges and GRID Alternative regional offices to work together, while avoiding over-concentration in any one office or region.  Prior participants are eligible to apply again although the review process will take into account opportunities for new participants.

Lengthy proposals are neither required nor desired. We suggest that proposals be limited to 5 pages, though this is not a firm requirement. Supplemental material such as pre-existing curricula, graphic or pictorial displays or testimonials can be extra, but are not required. A cover letter signed by a Dean or higher level Administrator indicating applicant college support for the proposed participation is required. It should also include confirmations that:

  • The college maintains appropriate liability insurance for classes conducted off-site.  

  • A PV installation course is being provided during either the Spring or Summer 2014 semester to prepare students for this installation experience.

This letter is not counted as part of the suggested page count.

Applications should contain at least three sections:

  • Prior Experience with PV Installation training at the applicant college.

  • Description of how the Grid Alternative on-site training would integrate with existing college PV course(s) and a description as to how you expect this GRID Alternative experience will benefit your students.

  • Tentative plan as to how students would be transported to and from the Grid Alternatives site.  

Applications are due on or before 5 PM, March 12th (EXTENDED DEADLINE).  Proposals should be sent to Gerald Bernstein, Principal Investigator California-Hawaii Region, SITN program, 

Questions on this grant program should be sent to the same email address.  Questions will be answered directly, but subsequently questions and answers will be posted for all applicants at .

The review team consists of the SITN region 8 management team and Grid Alternatives managers.  Selection will be based on the review team’s assessment of the applicant’s application and geographic location.
Notices to applicants will be sent on or before mid-March so that this activity can be included in course planning. 

GRID Alternatives was founded in 2001.  They have installed more than 8.5 MW of solar power for over 3000 families.  Based in Oakland, GRID Alternatives has 7 dedicated regional offices serving all of California.  Colleges will be paired with their local Grid Alternative office to finalize arrangements for the installation opportunity.

GRID Alternatives provides a 2 hour volunteer orientation that must be attended by all participants prior to working on their projects; this can be provided on campus at the convenience of the college. Coordination and scheduling will be done by the GRID Alternatives regional office and one assigned representative from the college. Colleges should require each attendee to complete a GRID Alternatives’ online volunteer application at ( prior to attendance at the orientation. Instructors should provide a final list of attendees and their contact information to GRID Alternatives in a timely manner before the orientation and installation day.  The students who participate each day can be changed, though all participants need to comply with the above orientation and application.


Status of FY2013-Funded Mini-Grants for Solar Education and Training in the CA/HI Partnership

 During Fall 2012 and Spring 2013, the California/Hawaii (CA/HI) Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN, a part of US DOE’s Sunshot initiative) developed a series of four mini-grant programs, providing up to $15,000 per recipient depending on the program, to spur solar energy education and training at California’s Community Colleges. Solicitation for the first of the programs was sent in October 2012, and a final solicitation was sent in June 2013 to more than 200 partnering faculty and institutions.
The intent of the mini-grant program is to provide maximum benefit while allowing experimentation to identify what best course developments emerge from diverse approaches. To qualify, and depending on the specific mini-grant program, applicants had to include a commitment from a dean or higher administrator, commitment of a specific staff to completing the project by the end of 2013 or early 2014.  
In chronologic order of their implementation, the four mini-grant programs are:

  • PV Sales and Marketing grants were developed to help colleges integrate PV sales and marketing courses into existing solar installation programs and courses. The courses permit a variety of approaches, including audiences (professionals, traditional students), durations (full semester, short courses), and delivery modes (classroom v. online training).  The NABCEP Job Task Analysis was suggested, but not required for this round. Five grants were awarded; recipients were Cuyamaca College, LATTC, Santa Monica College, Skyline College and Kern County CCD.

  • IREC Credential Program Accreditation/Trainer Certification, formerly known as IREC-ISPQ certification, is designed to upgrade the variety and quality of solar instructor training. This grant covered out-of-pocket fees by colleges that commit to seek the IREC-ISPQ credential.  LATTC was the sole applicant and awardee.

  • PV installation courses taught in the Spanish language are intended to increase employment prospects for individuals who have basic construction and/or electrical skills, but who have not had an opportunity to supplement these with PV-specific training due to language barriers.  Applications were accepted from College of the Desert, Santa Monica College and West Valley College.

  • Hands-on, real world PV installation opportunities for California community college students and faculty with GRID Alternatives, a California non-profit that has installed more than 8.5 MW of solar power for more than 3,000 families. GRID Alternatives generously agreed to host six community college teams at diverse locations around the state to work on actual installations during the fall of 2013; expenses for the installation are paid by the SITN grant program. Recipients were Santa Monica College, LATTC, Imperial Valley College, College of the Desert,  City College of San Francisco, and Kern County CCD.  

While the mini-grant program currently targets California programs, the CA/HI SITN team is assessing if a similar approach would work in Hawaii, or whether a cooperative approach would work better among their 7 community colleges (versus the 112 in the California system).
Similar grant programs are expected to be launched with FY2014 funding when received from the Department of Energy.  Ideas from faculty and administrators are solicited for new themes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Downloadable content/reports:
- Best Practices Manuals by IREC - Aug. 21, 2012

Five manuals for solar instructors prepared by the Interstate Renewable Energy council and completed in May 2012. These manuals document best practices and provide a compendium of national curriculum models of solar training, education and workforce development. The titles include "Becoming an Effective Teacher," "Curriculum and Program Development," "Developing a Quality Course," "Solar Content Integration"  and "Exemplary Solar Education and Training Programs.


- Best Practices in PV Instruction - Oct. 25, 2011