Clean Energy Center's Harrisburg lab holds open house

Published 03.28.2024

Photos by Cindy D. Meixel, writer/editor-Penn College News

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An open house was held on Wednesday at Penn College's Clean Energy Center lab in Harrisburg. The 10,000-square-foot-facility is the most recent addition to the Clean Energy Center's training sites, equipping individuals with the skills necessary to weatherize homes and buildings in their communities.

Celebrating the positive impact being made in people’s lives, an open house was held Wednesday at Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Clean Energy Center site in Harrisburg. 

The center is equipping individuals with the skills necessary to weatherize the homes of others, thus reducing energy bills, while at the same time, addressing health and safety issues such as mold, lead paint and carbon monoxide. It is an undertaking with immeasurable benefits for communities, and the open house acknowledged that feat while also showcasing the 10,000-square-foot facility. 

The site includes a Home Energy Professional lab featuring training and testing props, a heating appliance area, and an outside single-family diagnostic house. A modern classroom, lunch atrium, offices and other gathering spaces round out the amenities.

“The story of the Harrisburg training lab is centered around one of the cornerstones of Penn College’s values: business and industry partnerships,” said Alison A. Diehl, executive director of the Clean Energy Center, as she addressed the gathering. “As the energy efficiency sector continues to grow, our industry partners often encounter challenges in finding, training and retaining skilled employees. Our job at the Clean Energy Center is to design workforce solutions that result in training onramps and upskilling to meet industry needs.”

Diehl shared the origins of establishing the Harrisburg site, including forming a partnership with MT Weatherization, part of MT Building Services, a home performance company which owns the building (formerly the Keystone Technical Institute).

Since opening the Harrisburg lab in May, about 200 home energy professionals have received training and completed certification. The lab is the most recent addition to the Clean Energy Center’s training sites, including a lab in Latrobe and the central location in Williamsport. Providing more access to hands-on training across the commonwealth, all three labs are running at full capacity, supporting increased workforce recruitment and training efforts under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Michael J. Reed, president of Penn College, addresses the open house crowd at the Harrisburg site.

“Providing additional local options for hands-on technical skills training allows Penn College to reach individuals where they are at, reducing time away from home and families while workers learn and earn certifications,” said Michael J. Reed, president of Penn College. “None of this would be possible without the support of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development and its weatherization network. Your presence here today is a testament to our shared commitment to making a difference in our communities.”

Also speaking at the open house was Richard Vilello, DCED’s deputy secretary for community affairs and development, who noted that next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the college's and DCED's partnership that created the Weatherization Training Center (now called the Clean Energy Center). Since 1985, the center has logged more than 22,000 worker enrollments.

“This is not just making a difference in the lives of the people receiving training, providing them with the tools to have fulfilling careers, but this is positively impacting the lives of property owners,” Vilello shared. “I often see the results of these repairs … and I’ve sat at kitchen tables with grandmothers who speak, with tears rolling down their faces, about the difference this has made in their lives, making their homes safer and more affordable and enabling them to stay in their homes longer.”

Joining the Clean Energy Center facilities this summer will be an 1,800-square-foot house for training more home-energy professionals. That building will be constructed on Penn College’s main campus in Williamsport, with groundbreaking set for late June. The construction is among academic and workforce development initiatives supported by a $2 million grant awarded by the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration. 

For more information on the nationally recognized Clean Energy Center and its accredited Home Energy Professional programs, visit the web pages.

Marking the moment are (from left): Nicholas Horting, director of DCED's Center for Residential Reinvestment Programs; Kathryn Rulli, deputy director of DCED's Weatherization Assistance Program; Shannon M. Munro, vice president for workforce development at Penn College; Alison A. Diehl, executive director, Clean Energy Center; Penn College President Michael J. Reed; Richard Vilello, DCED's deputy secretary for community affairs & development; Dawn M. Snyder, building science trainer, Clean Energy Center, Harrisburg; and John "Jack" M. Wilson, Clean Energy Center's director of technical services and Harrisburg site manager.
Barb E. McLaughlin, program specialist, welcomes open house guests in the building's foyer.
The entrance glass clearly marks the college's and the Clean Energy Center's presence in Harrisburg.
Prior to the formal program, guests mingle in the spacious lab.
Wilson (on right) speaks with Rodney Coley (left) and Thomas Heckman, managers with the Community Action Agency of Delaware County.
Vilello and Reed converse before stepping up to the microphone.
DCED staff and Clean Energy Center employees gather for a team shot.
Another view from the back of the lab as the college president shares his gratitude for the collaborative efforts
Vilello offers meaningful examples of the impact that weatherization work has on people's lives.
Among those listening to the speakers are (from left): David Hanes, president of MT Building Services; John Kolesnik, policy counsel at Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance/Energy Efficiency Alliance of New Jersey; and Matt Tenny, founder and CEO of MT Building Services.
Diehl thanks her staff and praises the collaboration of the many organizations and industry partners in the room.
Divided into three tour groups, attendees are guided through the facilities. Here, Snyder explains the training and testing props.
Representatives of Gov. Josh Shapiro's office join Penn College leaders for a photo op: Mateo Latorraca Rodrigo (second from left), administrative officer, critical investments; and Autumn Anderson (at right), deputy director, critical investments.
In the modern classroom, Diehl discusses green building career pathways with one of the tour groups.
Staff from the office of Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) take part in the event: Matthew Osenbach (second from left), executive director of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee; and Chief of Staff Nick Troutman (second from right).
Behind the building is the single-family diagnostic house that is approved through the Building Performance Institute for Crew Leader and Energy Auditor training and certification testing.
In the second-floor kitchen of the diagnostic house, Wilson (at right) guides a group through the features. To his right is Nate Woods Jr., Penn College's special assistant to the president for inclusion transformation. Tenny can be seen on the far left.
The blower door helps home energy professionals measure the amount and locations of air leakages in a home.
In the basement of the diagnostic house, Woods listens to Franklin D. Gillis (left), instructional site manager at the center's Williamsport lab, who pitches in to explain a variety of safety processes.
Staff from the state Department of Environmental Protection gather with the college representatives.
At the heating appliance training area, Gregory A. Weaver (second from right), HVAC and energy efficiency trainer, engages guests.
Kerry Campbell, the state DEP's environmental program manager, poses a question during a tour.
Sarah Klinetob Lowe, solar program manager, provides an overview of the Clean Energy Center's new building electrification programs that will launch this summer.
Encouraged by Clean Energy staffers, Troutman places his hand on the dense-packed insulation, a cost-saving energy element.
As Vilello watches, Reed also tries his hand at the insulation prop, leaving behind a handprint.
The Penn College leaders assemble to celebrate the event (from left): Reed, Munro, Diehl and Woods.