Bericht in der englischen Fachzeitschrift "SUN&WIND ENERGY"

More than 20 schools for specialists in solar energy have been established in Europe since 1993. Other training instiutes based on the standardized model are being planned.

Learning how to do right



Renewable energies are witnessing a boom. However, to date there is still no regulation which determines who is entitled to install these systems. Photovoltaic systems predominantly belong to the domain of electrical engineers while so­lar thermal systems or heat pumps fall within the competence of the sanitation, heating and air condi­tioning experts (SHAC). Even roofers occasionally feel the calling to install solar power systems. Moreover, different kinds of occupations often come into play in regenerative energy systems. Which ofthem is better qualified to install a solar thermal system? ls it the heating fitter whose expertise lies in the boiler room? Or is it the roofer for whom installing solar collectors is an easy-to-do job?

Such uncertainties, resulting in inefficient sys­tems or at worst in systems which do not work at all, have been bothering Austrian engineer Werner Rauscher, since solar technology had Seen its first upturn in the early 90s. Rauscher, who is now Managing Director ofthe European Center for Renew­able Energies (ECRE) at Güssing, is working to remedy this deplorable state of affairs. He has devised an advanced training which enables anyone with a basic knowledge to easily install smoothly operating photovoltaic or solar thermal systems as well as heat pumps. In the early 90s the first advanced solarteur trainings an a part-time basis took place. By late 2007 there were 21 solarteur schools in Austria, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Greece. Schools in the Czech Republic and Palestine are still in their pre­liminary stages while talks with interested parties are underway in France and Bulgaria. To date about 3,500 certified solarteurs have been trained.

First schoots as an EU project

The first solar school was established by Rauscher in Vienna in 1993, at that time in cooperation with the Institute for Educational Advancement. Today it is located in Güssing. He had already trained several hundred solateurs in Vienna. Even so, founding other schools in Austria proved to be difficult. Consequently, Rauscher looked for partners outside Austria who were willing to set up schools with him. His eyes were set an vocational institutes with a focus an technology where there was already some infrastructure for the organization in place and even more important, an environment of qualified teachers and students who were working or wanted to become active in related fields.

Rauscher found this in Germany and Greece. In Germany he was able to gain the support of the Municipal Vocational Schoot for Electrical Plant and Construction Technology in Munich, the Guild for Electricity and Information Technology in Stuttgart and the Chamber of Commerce in Münster. In Kozani, in the Greek region of Western Macedonia, the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) liked his idea. The project partners from three countries applied for EU funds. Within the framework of the "Leonardo da Vinci" education programme they were awarded the project to set up solar schools at their Institutes.

Another person who has strongly influenced the concept of the solarteur trainings is Wilhelm Kirchensteiner in Munich. The electrical installer by trade has been teaching electrical engineering and physics since 1980. Since then, he has established severaI recognized occupations requiring formal vocational trainings for renewable energy technologies at both the basic and advanced level of education. When the EU project was approved in 1995, the City of Munich commissioned him to set up the Training Center for Solar Technology (TCS) at their vocational school. Kirchensteiner further developed Rauscher's concept putting into practice his ideas of an action-based teaching.

"Learning theory only doesn't work any longer", is how he explains his method. That is why he prefers a hands-on approach to make things better understood. The Learning progress improves when things can be touched, tried out and quickly put into practice. To ensure this, Kirchensteiner initiated a "solar lab" where students immediately apply in practice the theory they have been learning. PC work stations and practicing equipment with tools are included.

Solar power and solar heating systems are used as demonstration objects or devices under test in the outside facilities of the schools. The vocational solarteur training is evenly split between 50 % theory and 50 practice. For this reason trainers require their participants to hold a relevant qualifi­cation. In Germany they must be e.g. either master or assistant craftsmen in the SHAC or electrical engineering Held or must belong to the installation trade such as the roofer traft.

In order to ensure that all the participants receive adequate personal support, their number for this advanced training is restricted to 16 people. Normally the training consists of 200 to 220 teaching sessions. They are broken down into the systems tech­nology of photovoltaic power, solar thermal and heat pumps. In addition the basics of electrical engineering and hegt pump tech­nology are taught. The course also includes 20 hours an the subject of ecological mar­keting.

Very popular in Greece

The number of participants reflects the intensity of use of solar technology in the countries. In Kozani, Greece, professor Wassilis Kikis who is in charge of the course enjoys great popularity. He started about the same time as the first three German schools and has had more than 200 participants in the solarteur course to date. He gives two reasons for this. "We have a lot of sunshine", he says. "A thermosiphonic system is to be found an nearly every house round here." These are very inexpensive and often in­stalled. Photovoltaics is more expensive in Greece, but demand is starting to increase. Another advantage is the affiliation of the solar school to theTechnological Educational Institute (TEI), Greece's third largest univer­sity of applied science. The solarteur train­ing provided the students with the practical training that they did not receive at the university.
An instructor is explaining heating system hydraulics to participants of the advanced solarteur training in Meran. Photos (2): Luis Zuegg State Vocational SchoolAn instructor is explaining heating system hydraulics to participants of the advanced solarteur training in Meran. Photos (2): Luis Zuegg State Vocational School

First courses in Hungary

Hungary still has to catch up. "Solar systems are not very common here", says Magdolna Horváth. Howver, they are slowly beginning to come into fashion though not without difficulty. Horväth is a teacher of German and translator for the principal of Tivadar Puskäs Specialised Middle School for Metal and Electrical Engineering at Szombathely. The community is situated about 20 km off the Austrian border. When Werner Rauscher, while looking for further project partners, visited the school in 2000, she was the one who originally broached the idea to the principal. "1 knew that energy would become an important issue", she says. Horväth became coordinator of the solar project. It took some years for it to start, though. Because of the school having no money to train teachers she applied for an EU project. "We were successful at the second attempt", reports Magdolna Horväth. In 2004 they were able to start with the installation of the solar lab. The principal made a room an the ground floor of the specialist middle school available. Some of the staff spent two weeks at the Chamber of Commerce in Münster in order to gain the necessary solar knowledge.

In 2005 the first training course for solarteurs took place in Hungary. Participants have to pay about € 500 for it. 50 specialists have passed the examination to date. Horváth is still in dose contact with Werner Rauscher. Currently they are jointly working an an EU application for a heat pump project.

A concept an three pillars

"The establishment of new schools globally is based an three pillars", states Wilhelm Kirchensteiner. The first one is the teacher training. Trainers for technical jobs attend an existing solarteur school and acquire the expert knowledge, as the Hungarians have done in Münster. The second pillar are the course documents. The materials which are intended to be used by everybody to ensure a uniform training standard, can be translated into every language. The third one is the laboratory equipment. It is based an Kirchensteiner's developments and as such can be found at nearly all schools. It is important that it is an "integrative system", points out Kirchensteiner. All elements must be harmonized. As project manager Petra Brunner from Güssing teils us, course documents and laboratories are continually being im­proved according to the state of the art.

"The next schools will be set up according to the Munich concept", emphasises director of studies Kirchensteiner. The reason is to ensure a "distinct education concept". Up to now the school founders have been enjoying more discretion in their training design.

Extendet course in Meran

Orte example is the school in Meran in South Tyrol. In the autonomous province in the north of Italy, Edwin Daniel, who has been active in continuing education for 28 years, has taken up the cause to offer a wellgrounded solar training. His solar school is attached to the Graduate Engineer Luis Zuegg State Vocational School for Commerce, Craft and Industry. The master craftsman's training at the school consists of 2,000 hours, the solarteurtraining of a full 724 hours. It can be accredited to the master craftsman training.

Daniel offered the course for the first time in 1999. At that time he did not have his own solar laboratory. He therefore travelled with his participants to foreign institutes where they could gain insights into practice. "Training was financed by the European Social Fund and free of charge for participants", remembers Daniel. "It was a welcome change for them to see how things were done abroad. This allowed them to broaden their horizons."
Solar heating and solar power systems for testing ad demonstration purposes are part of a solarteur scool equipment. Course participant wiht instructor at the Graduate Engineer Luis Zuegg State Vocational School for Commerce, Craft and Industrie in Meran, Italy

Solar heating and solar power systems for testing ad demonstration purposes are part of a solarteur scool equipment. Course participant wiht instructor at the Graduate Engineer Luis Zuegg State Vocational School for Commerce, Craft and Industrie in Meran, Italy

Here the number of hours is significantly higher than that at other schools, because Daniel has included subjects such as solar cooling and fuel cell technology. "If somebody is willing to undergo this training, he should be given a top education", explains Daniel. In South Tyrol the order situation is very good so that most specialists do not have the time to do further studies. To date about 50 solarteurs have graduated from his training courses. Most of them came from oneman or two-men businesses and are now able "to fil a niche", according to Daniel. As an example he mentions programmable logic controllers. 

Edwin Daniel has been awarded exclusive market territory protection for his advanced solarteur training in South Tyrol. Just as Tivadar Puskäs Specialist Middle School for Metal and Electrical Engineering at Szombathely is the only school throughout Hungarywhich is authorized to train so­larteurs. Exclusivity is part of Rauscher's concept. He patented the brand name "solarteur" in 1993. Whoever wants to offer training courses for this qualification has to acquire the rights from him as the licenser.

By now a business model has evolved at the European Centre for Renewable Energy, the ECRE Güssing International AG. The team around Werner Rauscher and Dean Marcelja assists interested parties throughout Europe as well as overseas to set up solarteur schools according to their concept. The net cost of a school is between € 240,000 and 300,000. The first two modules, solar thermal and photovoltaics, cost approximately € 200,000 to 240,000, the third module, heat pumps, approximately € 60,000. Furthermore, the benchmarks vary depending an the equipment already available at the school.

As many education institutes are lacking the money to buy equipment, ECRE assists them in finding funds. This is followed by the translation of teaching materials into the local language, the training of teachers and the furnishing of the lab. At the moment prospects for further solar schools are bright. In earty November no written confirmation had yet been received but the European Commission had already signaled that it would support a project for nine solar schoots in eight European countries. Yet Werner Rauscher is atready thinking further ahead. Not far from Güssing is the home town of Arnold Schwarzenegger. With the mayor's help Rauscher had his concept presented to the Governor of California. According to school circles, the Governor was "enthusiastic" about it.

Ina Röpcke; Further information; International platform for solarteurs: http://www.solarteur.com

Sun & Wind Energy 3/2009 

Enjoying their job: participants of the advanced solarteur training in Güssing, AustriaEnjoying their job: participants of the advanced solarteur training in Güssing, Austria
Photo: ECRE Güssing, International AG