Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SolarTech and San Jose State University

From the SolarTech weekly newsletter, October 18, 2010

SolarTech and San Jose State University - a Winning Team!

Building on a successful collaboration earlier in 2010, two teams of business students from the Sbona Honors Program at San José State are now studying aspects of residential solar adoption on behalf of SolarTech and its members. A team of finance students is validating the estimates of various PV calculators, while a marketing team is asking consumers about their reasons for adoption (or non-adoption) of rooftop solar panels.

Cooperation by SolarTech members in these studies - as well as planned interviews and surveys of solar HR managers - will help SolarTech and the industry advance their goal of promoting solar adoption in California.

The finance team of Chris Chow, Y Nguyen and Nick Sabbatini is comparing the predictions of public calculators such as NREL’s Solar Advisor Model for a range of California locations. They are also seeking actual performance data and will be testing the sensitivity of the various calculators.

The Sbona Honors Program sends SJSU’s highest performing undergraduate business students into the field to help clients solve a real problem. For the finance project, Jeremy Neigher of Clean Power Finance has been volunteering his time to serve as the SolarTech client representative, providing both industry knowledge and client feedback to the students.

A similar role is being played by Bob Couch of Orogen Marketing, who is working with the SJSU marketing students: Faith Ebrahimi, Irene Foelschow, Morgan Hancock, Jennifer Sarvian and Tam Tran. The team has drafted a consumer survey about homeowner adoption motivations, and is negotiating for access to a representative mailing list.

The students were selected by Prof. Bill Devincenzi and Prof. Rob Vitale from their respective honors classes. Both teams are also getting feedback from David McFeely of SolarTech and Joel West of SJSU.

In the Spring, teams provided by Prof. Devincenzi and Prof. West studied the features of the solar calculators and surveyed local government attitudes towards streamlining installation permits. The studies are available on the SolarTech website (free for members, nominal fee for non-members) and summaries are available on the SJSU Solar Workforce blog: solarwork.blogspot.com.

Finally, another group of students will be studying the staffing needs of Bay Area solar companies, both large and small. The 43 students are undergraduate human resources majors taking a HR staffing class taught by Prof. Lauren Ramsay.

The students will be interviewing HR managers — or in some cases, business owners — to discuss their most important job categories, and the knowledge, skills and abilities required for these jobs. The interviews will both provide in-depth insights into workforce needs and also prepare the next generation of HR professionals to work in the cleantech sector.

Beginning in early 2011, SJSU plans a follow up from the interviews with a series of quarterly surveys of California’s solar industry employers. The surveys are being run by Prof. Meghna Virick, as part of the two-year SolarTech Workforce Innovations Collaborative (SWIC).

For more information about SJSU’s collaboration with SolarTech, contact Joel West at Joel.West@sjsu.edu.

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