The Foundation for Electrical Construction, Inc. is taking positive cross-border steps to increase communication and collaboration between U.S. and international electrical contractors. This initiative also offers a unique opportunity to work with twelve aspiring industry leaders from The Pennsylvania State University.

The Renew Crew, headed to Roatán, Honduras March 5 -14, includes members from the Penn State National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Student Chapter, established in 2008 by Architectural Engineering graduate student Sarah Klinetob. The Renew Crew will lead a sustainable service learning project, installing a student-designed solar electric system for the K-12, Sandy Bay Alternative School in Roatán.

The 2.46 kW grid-tied solar electric system will be prefabricated at Vegas Electric, an established electrical construction firm and NECA international member based in Roatán, and then transported to the school for installation. Charles George, owner of Vegas Electric, has made the commitment to ensure the solar system is maintained after the students return to Penn State.

The service project will run concurrently with ELECTRI International’s 2009 Cross Border Meeting, a networking and business conference for U.S., Latin American, and Canadian electrical contractor members of NECA. The Renew Crew will meet conference attendees to discuss their progress, experiences and future plans. Contractors will visit the Roatán worksite to view the installation.

The NECA Student Chapter Program is a component of ELECTRI International’s Talent Initiative—a nationwide program dedicated to attracting the “best and brightest” for future positions in electrical construction. Supported by local NECA Chapters, each Student Chapter program is designed to increase the visibility of careers in electrical construction and renewable energy. Students are given the opportunity to take part in internships and national competitions.

The Renew Crew’s goal is to use the project experience to explore sustainable, renewable energy solutions that will improve living conditions for low-income communities in Honduras. Student participants see the service project as a model for a more expansive program called Renewable Energies in Central America (RECA). 

Professor David Riley, NECA Student Chapter advisor at Penn State and a principal researcher for ELECTRI International, helped students plan the Honduras venture. According to Riley, “Our hope is that RECA will help students gain a greater respect and knowledge of the global community, the importance of cross-border relationships, and the industry as it exists within and beyond U.S. boundaries. The opportunity to work with ELECTRI International at the Cross-Border meeting in Honduras is a big step in the direction of meeting that goal.”      

Riley explains, “In part, the service project will act as a “pilot program” for the NECA/ELECTRI International Student Chapter Competition, a key element of the Talent Initiative.” Called the Green Energy Challenge, the competition will invite Student Chapters nationwide to conduct a basic lighting/energy audit for a local K-12 school and develop a proposal for an energy retrofit. Finalist teams will present their solutions at the 2009 NECA Convention and Trade Show in Seattle, September 12 -15.