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SLIM training lets the sun shine on opportunities in PV energy

Dierl Bagusto said he sees it as the future.“This is for my kids’ sake. I see the future being in solar,” he said.

In the present, he’s among 48 workers, contractors and students who’ve completed VITEC/SLIM/MEO classes in design and installation of photovoltaic systems on residences and in commercial facilities.

Contractor Rick Larson said he had a class in solar systems when he first began working 40 years ago.  “It’s changed a lot,” he said of the construction business and of the technology for utilizing solar energy.

“Everybody thinks it’s pretty simple, all you have to do is put the panels up there on a roof and you get electricity.  I know some people who have mismatched equipment, so they have these expensive panels up on their roofs and they’re not getting the electricity they should be out of them,” he said.

“You need the knowledge and the tools to get it right.”

As a successful graduate of the Commercial Photovoltaic Certification Training Program – one of 16 to receive certificates in a ceremony held Nov. 9 at the University of Hawaii Maui College campus – Larson is qualified to sit for the Entry Level Certificate exam of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.  It’s a step to each student being fully certified to design and install photovoltaic systems.

The training was free, funded by a State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations grant to support development of PV systems in Hawaii.  The grant was awarded to the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui, UH Maui College’s Office of Continuing Education & Training VITEC program, and Maui Economic Opportunity.

Separate training sessions were provided for residential PV installation and commercial PV installation, led by Stuart Zinner of the UH Maui College Sustainable Construction Technology Department.

Residential PV class Graduate Pono Garcia has his own Home Repair and Remodeling business, but is interning with HNu Energy installing PV systems after completing a class in residential installation.

“Before the class, I didn’t know anything about PV. After the class, I knew enough about how PV works, had the basic knowledge that I was able to go to HNu and actually begin installing systems,” he said.

HNu provides him with work experience that he didn’t get in the classroom, positioning him to be more successful in his own business when the economy recovers.

“With the industry slowing down, PV is actually one of the trades that has increased,” he said. “Everything else was down around the country, and in Hawaii, with the clean energy initiatives, I figured there would be a lot of work.”

Mayor Charmaine Tavares, a guest speaker for the CPV graduation, applauded the program for contributing to Maui County’s efforts to promote renewable energy systems and reduce the county’s reliance on fossil fuels.

“When I became mayor, I felt Maui County needed to be intimately involved with sustainable energy development,” she said.

Her administration sponsored an Energy Expo that led to a community-based Energy Alliance program, which in turn promoted the grant application leading to the photovoltaic certification classes.  In congratulating the graduates, she acknowledged her reelection loss, but said good ideas that support energy independence are still good ideas.

“While I will be leaving, it’s a good feeling to understand how you will be contributing to the quality of life on Maui, how you will be working on energy systems that support the community,” she said.

The PV certification classes are part of a series of training programs planned by SLIM. A waiting list for the commercial photovoltaic certification class is prompting a review on whether additional classes can be offered. SLIM is also offering training in Building Operator Certification, Home Energy Survey Professional services, and an Introduction to Green Building. 

Information on planned classes is available from SLIM ( or the UHMC Office of Continuing Education & Training (

The PV certification training was provided to students looking for a change in careers as well as those looking to expand career options.  What counted most was the quality of the instruction and the instructors. 

Rob Gibson is a civil engineer looking to broaden his skill sets.  He said the Commercial PV class “was teaching me more than I already knew,” citing in particular electrical engineer Lyman Morikawa who served as an adjunct professor for the training program.  

“We spent three weeks with a teacher who had done it all, knew it all and was passing it on to us,” he said.

The graduates stood to applaud Morikawa when he was introduced, echoing Gibson’s praise.

“We learned a lot from Lyman,” Bagusto said.  “He is like a walking, talking national electrical code book.”


 About SLIM:

Sustainable Living Institute of Maui is a project of the University of Hawaii Maui College to provide ecologically effective skill-building programs that comply with the Maui community’s cultural choices and economic goals.  For more information:

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