Representatives of Pueblo Community College and NextEra Energy Resources on Thursday announced an academic partnership that will create a living laboratory for renewable energy at PCC.

NextEra Energy Resources will deliver and install 52 photovoltaic solar panels to create a 20-kilowatt solar energy system on PCC’s Pueblo campus. NEER also will provide training and curriculum to help the college create a pipeline of skilled workers for the rapidly evolving industry. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, solar panel installer is the fastest-growing job in the country.

PCC students will be able to use the solar energy system as a learning lab as they study how to operate and maintain the system, as well as analyze its data and build predictive analysis systems to optimize its operations.

“This commitment and generous gift from NextEra to invest in Pueblo, and in particular Pueblo Community College, is a wonderful opportunity for the institution to prepare the next generation of a renewable energy-skilled workforce,” said PCC President Patty Erjavec. “My team has already begun to explore the realm of educational possibilities this learning lab will afford our students and we are eager to unleash their creativity and innovative prowess.”

Ken Salazar, former US Secretary of the Interior and US senator from Colorado, joined PCC and NextEra Energy to celebrate the announcement. He also discussed the importance of solar storage projects in southern Colorado, pointing out that Pueblo County stands to benefit greatly from Xcel’s proposal. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission soon will vote on the plan.

“Under Xcel’s Preferred Colorado Energy Plan, Pueblo County would get a $1 billion investment in solar and energy storage, would gain 1,000 construction jobs and get an annual average GDP uplift of almost $10 million,” Salazar said. “This is truly an historic opportunity for Pueblo.”

PCC is ready to be a vital partner in developing the industry’s local workforce, Erjavec said, and the relationship with NextEra Energy Resources is key to making it happen.

“We are most humbled to partner with NextEra Energy Resources and commit to being good stewards of their investment in us,” she said.

Learn more about NextEra Energy Resources on their website!