Engineering Tech students install Pellissippi State’s first solar panel array

Pellissippi State Engineering Technology students Jeff Station (left) and Anthony Hudson install solar panels on the Hardin Valley Campus’ McWherter Building as a class project earlier this semester.

As Ken Swayne’s students tightened the screws on the new solar panels, they also strengthened Pellissippi State Community College’s investment in alternative energy education.

Swayne, a professor of Electrical Engineering in the Engineering Technology degree program, pooled the talents of two of his classes this semester in order to install the first-ever solar panel array at Pellissippi State.

His Applied Electricity class wired the six panels to an inverter located in a classroom in the McWherter Building on the Hardin Valley Campus. Then the Photovoltaics Alternative Energy class installed brackets and the solar panels on the roof of the building. The panels are expected to produce 324 watts of electrical energy under peak sun conditions.

Both classes then worked in a frigid wind on the rooftop to put the finishing touches on installing the solar panel array.

“The system will be a great learning tool for our technology students,” said Swayne. “I am very grateful to the college for supporting this project. I believe any contribution toward green energy production and training is a plus for Pellissippi State and the Knoxville community.”

Last year the college installed electric vehicle charging stations on its Hardin Valley and Blount County campuses. Pellissippi State earned the 2010 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award for its collegewide sustainability and environmental efforts.

William Draney, a 28-year-old Electrical Engineering student at Pellissippi State, says he was first drawn to the idea of solar energy during Swayne’s campuswide lecture on photovoltaics last year.

“I wanted to know how to put solar panels on my own house,” he said. “Plus, I had been an electrician for five years and wanted to see if solar panel installation would be a good thing to get into on the side.”

Pellissippi State offers many green courses, both in the classroom and online. Among them are Photovoltaic System Design and Installation, Green Building for Contractors, and classes for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

For more information, contact the college’s Business and Community Services Division at (865) 539-7167. To learn more about Pellissippi State’s Engineering Technology programs, visit or call (865) 694-6400.