March 10, 2014

ASU, IRENA to develop solar tech certification program in West Africa

Posted: March 10, 2014
technicians working on solar energy systems
A new solar certification program in West Africa will help develop quality workforce capacity for the installation of solar PV systems.
(Photo taken in the Republic of Fiji in a similar certification program.)

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Arizona State University signed an agreement this week to develop a solar certification program for West Africa. The two institutions have teamed up to promote and initiate the implementation of harmonized certification programs of technicians for off-grid, as well as grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems in West Africa. This program aims to develop workforce capacity for the deployment of solar PV systems, a fast-growing form of renewable energy with excellent potential for providing energy security and economic development in the region.

“West Africa needs more skilled technicians to accelerate the deployment of solar PV, and it is part of IRENA’s mission to support this through knowledge sharing, provision of expertise and international cooperation,” said Gauri Singh, director of IRENA’s Country Support and Partnerships division. “Our collaboration with ASU supports this effort by providing a standard for excellence in the sector, which ultimately will help West African countries to reap the benefits of solar power.”

The certification of the different levels of technicians will improve confidence of customers in renewable energy technologies and the technicians who implement them, and it also will support the employability of the technicians by providing them with recognized skill levels.

“ASU is a worldwide leader in PV solar research, power-grid management and sustainability,” said Paul Johnson, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. “We are excited to be collaborating with IRENA to share our expertise and help build the local technical capacity in West Africa.”

The IRENA and ASU collaboration will include the preparation and implementation of one- or two-day workshops in selected countries in West Africa with key stakeholders to garner political and policy level support for the initiative. The stakeholders will include certifying agencies, national and regional training institutions, government agencies, training providers, utility companies and regulatory authorities.

“Establishing human competency standards followed by appropriate training and certification is essential to the success of renewable energy efforts in the developing countries, and ASU welcomes IRENA as the sponsoring collaborator in helping organize this effort,” said Anshuman Razdan, professor in engineering and computing systems at ASU and principal investigator of the collaboration.

The initiative will help establish national and regional technical committees to guide and oversee the development of technical competency standards for the solar certification training courses. The project will also develop technical guidelines for the solar energy technology training programs for each level of certification.