For Tarrant County College’s energy technology students, a new $42 million training center offers learning opportunities in every square foot.
The new Center of Excellence for Energy Technology is an eco-friendly, state-of-the art facility described by school officials as the largest of its kind in the nation. The 87,000-square-foot building, which promotes sustainability on TCC’s South Campus, is also expected to help usher a new generation of workers for energy efficiency jobs that are continuing to grow in demand.
“The building is a focus for the technology programs on the south campus,” said Thomas Ford, acting dean of business and technology on TCC’s South Campus. “It gives us room to teach current technology and the room to expand for new technologies. It’s focus point for industry in this area.”
21 percent projected job growth from 2012 to 2022 for heating, air conditioning mechanics
Students are already taking classes — including hands-on training — in the building, which is still a work in progress.
“It’s a very cool building,” Ford said. “We have a wonderful solar array that is providing almost net zero electrical consumption in the building. We will have wind generating tower in place in early November that should generate enough power for probably six small homes.”
420 solar panel cells help generate power
The school is focused on energy and will help train workers for the oil and gas industry, renewable energy and heating, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR), including those who specialize in energy efficiency.
Despite slumping prices for oil and gas, it remains one of the industries in Texas and employment for HVACR is experiencing fast growth as residential and commercial construction continues to boom.
Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics are also called HVACR techs
“We are losing people faster than we can replace them,” said Chris Noonan, an HVACR instructor at the energy center. “Thirty-one percent of the HVACR workforce is expected to retire which in turn create jobs and a great income for people. These are jobs that cannot be outsourced to a different country or a different state — you needs hands on.”
Heating and cooling mechanics can make about $43,640 a year
‘This is totally different’
Inside and outside the training center students are immersed in learning. Instructors said the walls inside the building have been “peeled back” to expose the infrastructure students need to understand in their evolving fields. One lab has a wood-framed house in which students can practice installing air-conditioning systems.
“Here ... wow,” said Regie Stevenson, a 37-year-old student learning about air-conditioning systems. “This is totally different.”
Areas known as “think tanks” or “sticky places” are located throughout the facility so students can gather to brainstorm or study. Students can also gather outside in courtyards shaded by solar energy arrays that help power the building.
The water never leaves this location
Thomas Ford, acting dean of business and technology at TCC South Campus
Native plants and shrubs line the outside of the building and provide a filtering system for storm water.
“Green screens,” or touchscreen monitors, are posted on several walls to offer real time monitoring of facility’s energy generating systems. In about six months, the center will have software that will allow people to see “real-time usage numbers for what the building consumes — power, water, heating air conditioning — all of those metrics,” Ford said.
Student mechanics and installers can practice in modern labs.
“We are able to heat and cool the rooms to simulate real world experience,” said Noonan, who is also coordinator of building technology at the energy center.
Going ‘full-steam ahead’
The energy center is one of two new additions to TCC’s South Campus, at 5301 Campus Drive in Fort Worth.
Next door, sits a new $13 million early college high school called TCC South/Fort Worth ISD Collegiate High School. That building offers the Fort Worth school district’s newest Gold Seal School of Choice program, which allows high school students to earn an associate degree while working on their high school diplomas.
The building was built by TCC and furnished by the Fort Worth school district. There are currently about 100 ninth-grade students at the school.
“When you look at both facilities together, you see that in this, TCC’s 50th year, we are building on our legacy of excellence and service to our community while looking well into the future,” TCC South Campus President Peter Jordan said in a news release. “We are building programs for students who not only will become self-sufficient through higher education, but will power our regional and national economy full-steam ahead.”
1 house used for hands-on training