Jeff Vidmar takes a sip of his morning coffee. As he pulls his hot cup of java away from his mouth the steam momentarily clouds the view of his 27-inch iMac computer screen.
He puts down his coffee and refocuses on the task at hand.
The computer simulation he’s working on suggests that a solar panel project for the Thames Valley District School Board will provide an early return on investment.
The winds of renewable energy change are sweeping across this country.
And Jeff Vidmar is a big part of that growing movement.
The 29-year-old is a Photovoltaic Engineer Technician with Saturn Power, a Canadian renewable energy development company based in New Hamburg, Ont. that specializes on wind and solar projects.
It’s Vidmar’s job to plan, design, and optimize solar and wind energy design on both the small and large-scale ends of the spectrum.
So when the Thames Valley school board came calling for expertise on how to set up six schools with photovoltaic solar panels, Vidmar rose to the challenge.
“I like that every day is a new challenge, a new design,” he says. “And the technology is always changing.”
This particular project proves to be one of his biggest tests since he was hired in November, following his graduation from Lambton College’s three-year Alternative Energy Engineering Technology (ALTE) Program.
The winning design is one that incorporates a mixture of roof-top, ground-mounted and wall-mounted solar panels.
“Just coming up with the designs for those schools was an interesting challenge,” he says.
Vidmar says Lambton provides its ALTE students with a great base to enter the green energy workforce.
“The three-year program provides students with in-depth instruction on new and emerging technologies,” Vidmar explains.
Following graduation, Vidmar was ready for the emerging solar and wind design industry. He can take simple roof dimensions and create a solar energy project that will best suit his client’s needs.
There are days when his work takes him out of the office to conduct on-site analysis.
In one instance, he had to determine whether a solar project at a Kitchener business would function properly as the structure stood just 200 feet from one of the city’s largest buildings.
The ability to analyze the impacts of obstructions is extremely important, he says.
Vidmar is an emerging star in the renewable energy field, having co-authored a published article based on his research in the alternative energy sector. He presented his research at the recent Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) international conference in Toronto.
Vidmar’s designs provide his clients with a return on their initial investment within 7-8 years. After 20 years they’re looking at an average 11-12% rate of return annually.
With senior levels of government increasingly investing in renewable energy, the job market is booming, he says.
“I feel fortunate because I’m working in a career, not just a job. There’s no where to go but up.”