VALPARAISO | Students at the Porter County Career and Technical Center received a gift Tuesday from Fronius USA LLC that will help them gain more hands on experience with solar energy.
Fronius, which has an office in the Ameriplex industrial park in Portage, is an international company and world leader in welding technology, battery charging systems and solar electronics.
Company representatives held a news conference at the Career Center to announce the donation of two solar power inverters totaling $5,000.
They also spoke with electronics and computer technology students who will be using the inverters in the center's rooftop solar panel project.
Thomas Enzendorfer, director of Fronius' solar energy division, said the inverters convert DC energy from the solar panels to AC that is used by NIPSCO to power homes and businesses.
The Career Center uses microinverters with its 32 rooftop solar panels, said David Kenning, who teaches the electronics and computer technology class.
The new inverters will be able to serve dozens of solar panels, whereas one microinverter could serve only one panel, Kenning said.
Students will learn how to take apart the new inverters, install them and repair them, among other things.
“This gives them a connection between classroom experience and real-life application,” said Martin Beran, head of system support in Fronius' solar electronics division.
Career Center Director Jon Groth called Fronius a "great partner," noting it has hired students from the center and is working with current students and providing tech support.
Fronius began as a family owned company in Austria in 1945 and now has 3,500 employees in divisions across the globe.
Enzendorfer said the company chose Portage because of the quality of the workforce in Northwest Indiana and because the region reflects its values.
"People are the backbone of our company, and we want to help the next generation," he said.