A company vying to lead a charge toward alternative energy use in Georgia, and known world-wide for its solar products, presented a program in Ogeechee Technical College's Kennedy-Auditorium Tuesday.
Representatives of MAGE SOLAR, part of the globally-operating MAGE GROUP, made the relatively short trip from Dublin - where the company recently established a North American headquarters and manufacturing facility - to discuss possibilities for solar energy within the state.
"Why use solar energy? You can be on the grid, but producing your own electricity. It is a reliable technology and has been in the existence since the late 1960s," said Gary Manlove, Product Manager for MAGE SOLAR, during the program. "It will save you money in the long run, create jobs and manage long-term energy costs. It is safe and a clean technology."
"If you look across the country, including Georgia, you'll find some of the best, prime places for solar because of the sunlight," said Joe Thomas, president and chief operating officer of MAGE SOLAR. "Georgia is probably the second-best sunlight market in the United States, behind the Texas-New Mexico area."
A panel of MAGE officials, whose employer produces photovoltaic modules (panels) for commercial and residential projects, offered insight into the company and solar market at the site of the area's only photovoltaic training program - Ogeechee Tech's photovoltaic curriculum provides the area's only program outside of Savannah.
"We partnered with MAGE SOLAR Projects, Inc. to offer a presentation to local builders or anyone interested in solar energy," said Barry Turner, vice president for Community and College Relations at Ogeechee Tech. "We have a photovoltaic program here at Ogeechee Tech, which teaches solar panel installation and repair. It was a good project to partner with them on, so people in the area can learn about the product."
"It is a good way to let the community know about the new technology. It's a win-win," he said. "MAGE can offer a program on their product, and at the same time, we can do something that will build a market for people to come to school at Ogeechee Tech to learn about putting in solar systems. If someone in the community decides to implement solar systems, then they can get training from us to be able to offer those systems."
The photovoltaic - a word for using the sun's energy to create electricity - program offered by Ogeechee Tech is unique to the area and prepares students to enter a blossoming field, according to Norm Threatt, Photovltaic Program instructor.
"Our program has been running for about a year now. We have about 16 students per quarter," said Threatt. "It is a two-quarter program that teaches the basics of electricity and how to properly install, maintain and service solar equipment."
According to the instructor, a growing market exists for OTC's graduating students in Savannah, Atlanta and South Carolina.
Threatt said the new MAGE facility in Dublin will create additional opportunities for graduates, as well as benefit the school and current/future students.
MAGE is looking to employ about 350 more people for its operation, he said; the company is considering Ogeechee graduates.
The proximity of a solar facility will also provide Ogeechee Tech a source for new teaching equipment. Instead of purchasing solar equipment from California or shipping it overseas, the school can buy from MAGE at a discount, said Threatt.
Threatt hopes, in addition to the growth of Ogeechee's program, that use of solar energy increases in Bulloch County and surrounding areas in the future. At least two individuals will be installing solar energy systems within the next month, he said.
"The best thing about solar energy is that once you put in place, you are getting free energy," said Threatt. "It uses the sun, doesn't harm the environment and reduces the need for more power companies."
"It is safe and can save billions of dollars on nuclear plants."
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454