Ecotech Institute is excited to announce a new partnership with OutBack Power, a leading designer and manufacturer of advanced power electronics for renewable energy.
Phil Undercuffler, OutBack's Director of Government and Industry Relations, visited Ecotech Institute in November. After guest-lecturing in one of our renewable energy classes and touring our labs and facilities, he expressed that he was impressed with Ecotech Institute’s offerings. It was then decided that our students would get a chance to participate in the pre-launch beta testing of new OutBack Power products.
“Students really enjoyed reviewing the instructions from OutBack on the new controller we are beta testing now,” says Ecotech Institute instructor Dan Fink.
"Try to break it! But if you do, file a complete report through our beta-testing portal," the instructions say.
Fink continues: “The students are also tasked with reporting more minor issues, such as menus that are difficult to navigate, bugs in updating firmware…really, anything that will enhance OutBack Power’s customer experience before the new products are launched worldwide.”
Students Get to Work with OutBack Mate 3s
The company also provided Ecotech Institute with its new OutBack Mate 3s, a system display and controller that allows users to program and monitor a complete power system.
“The Mate 3s gives us complete, easy-to-use control and monitoring capability for both of our off-grid installation training systems,” Fink explains. “But best of all, it makes it easy to automatically feed our real-time performance reports directly to the OutBack OpticsRE website, where the data will be logged and can be viewed in real time on the Internet. Moreover, their APIs will also allow us to show this information right on the Ecotech website, and allow OutBack to monitor how the equipment we are testing is performing.”
Once the system is fully implemented, Ecotech Institute website visitors will be able to see an array of real-time data produced by the power generation systems, including voltage, cost offset, stored and used energy and numerous other system performance parameters that only a technician would understand.
“Fortunately, Ecotech Institute students are training to be technicians,” notes Fink. “So, by the time they move from introductory classes to more advanced ones, they will understand all those details and will be actively installing, troubleshooting, commissioning and monitoring these systems.”
Photovoltaic System Experience
The new technology will be used to train Ecotech Institute’s students enrolled in the Solar Energy Technology program.
“Remote monitoring and control of PV [photovoltaic] systems is the latest technology in solar right now,” says Fink. “It has been used in utility-scale solar installations for years, but has been complicated to implement in residential and off-grid systems. Our students get to install, test and commission this new equipment, so they can potentially tell their new employer: ‘I know how to program that controller you are struggling with. I know how to update that firmware in the inverter. I know how to get all our data live on the web.’ Helping students put all of those skills on their resumes is what our program is all about.”
Fink notes that thanks to high-tech innovations such as remote monitoring and diagnostic systems, the solar industry is moving forward faster than ever before:
“My biggest challenge as an instructor is keeping ahead of my students, as they are passionate about the industry and keep up with the industry news. Thanks to Ecotech Institute’s new partnership with OutBack Power, we have an opportunity to test the equipment that is not even available on the market yet. We dive into the projects together, and I learn just as much as my students do.”