Jim Dunlop Solar

About Us > Jim Dunlop > Biography

Career Summary | Projects and Research | Publications | Recognition

While this website is not about me per se, I thought some of you might be interested to know a little more about who I am; my background and influences, my career and achievements, and what I do.

To begin, I was born in Gainesville, FL and began elementary school there and in Daytona Beach, FL where most of my family is from. I was extremely fortunate to enjoy a close relationship and receive life guidance from my grandparents, especially my grandfather, a former high school coach and principal, who had a strong influence on my childhood, education, and passion for outdoor activities, including sports and fishing. I played little league sports; baseball, football and basketball, but developed better than average abilities in golf, having been led along by my grandfather from an early age. I competed at the collegiate level and in amateur championships to this day, and enjoy the challenge, integrity and fortitude that the game of golf demands.

My initial interests in energy systems began in the 9th grade, encouraged by my electrical shop teacher, George Shultz, who became a well-known author of textbooks for the electrical industry. In high school, I built a parabolic dish concentrating solar collector for a science experiment, and worked with a classmate on a physics project to analyze trajectories, launch angles, spin and velocity of golf ball flight with strobe photography, the basis for modern golf simulators. I would later study the aerodynamics of golf ball flight during college in my fluid mechanics courses. I have always been interested in nature and the physical sciences, and fascinated by how things are made and work, especially machines, engines, and electrical devices. I began to appreciate those who designed, built and maintained this equipment and the skills and knowledge they possessed, and so began my journey into the field of engineering and advanced energy systems.

While attending engineering school at the University of Florida, I developed further interests in renewable energy systems, and was strongly influenced by one of my professors, Dr. Erich Farber, a renowned solar energy pioneer. His pragmatic approach to teaching and problem solving, and solutions to the world’s energy problems resonated with me, and I decided at that time my future career would be in the energy field. For a special projects course under Dr. Farber, I designed and constructed solar collectors and a complete thermosiphon water heating system, operating it for several months collecting data. During my junior year, I completed energy auditor training for Gainesville Regional Utilities, and worked there for a couple years conducting several hundred audits for utility customers. I also attended the World’s Fair in Knoxville, TN, where I learned more about exciting new developments in renewable energy, and where I first met Scott Sklar, who later became executive director for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

After college, I was fortunate to be offered a position to join the faculty at the University of Central Florida - Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), working alongside preeminent researchers and those creating the foundation for the modern solar industry. During 20 years of service at FSEC, my primary roles were in support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southeast Regional Experiment Station (SERES) for PV systems research and engineering, working closely with colleagues at Sandia National Laboratories and throughout the PV industry. The most notable professional influence on my career has been Dr. Jerry Ventre, my director and mentor at FSEC, who remains a close colleague and dear friend.

My experiences at FSEC were highly rewarding and diverse. My first task was to test and monitor some of the first generation interactive PV systems when there were only a dozen or so such systems operating anywhere in the world. I then became more involved in systems engineering and design, helping to develop viable PV applications such as water pumping, lighting, medical clinics and transportation safety devices, including designing and installing the first PV-powered highway sign lighting system in Florida. During my early years at FSEC, I became briefly known as Jungle Jim for a PV installation I coordinated and installed for UCF archaeologists in Belize, Central America. I came home with Dengue fever and lost about 25 pounds when I didn’t have any to spare, and thanks to my mom taking me in and nursing me back to health and good wishes from my friends at FSEC, I quickly recovered. I led a team from FSEC to install PV systems at emergency medical clinics in South Florida after Hurricane Andrew, for which we received special recognition from the U.S. Dept. of Energy and the Public Health Service.

Throughout my career at FSEC, we routinely delivered presentations, seminars and workshops on PV systems, and were one of the first few institutions in the U.S. to offer such training. I helped FSEC achieve accreditation for its PV training program and was personally awarded the first master PV trainer certification in the U.S. by the Institute for Sustainable Power. I worked with preeminent PV trainer Mark Mrohs, then with Siemens Solar, on a World Bank project for PV training in India, developing curriculum and laboratory exercises, and presented several training programs at the Indian Institute of Technology. I was also active in creating the framework for the NABCEP PV installer certification program, chairing the technical committee and supporting development of the task analysis, exams and study guide. During my training endeavors, I also began to recognize the important roles that the electrical industry would eventually play when it came to contracting and installation of PV systems.

In 1997, I attended the National Training Institute (NTI), the annual training conference hosted by the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) for instructors, training directors and training partners in the electrical industry. I soon developed a relationship with NJATC directors Mike Callanan and Todd Stafford, and began conducting PV training programs on behalf of NJATC at NTI and at electrical training centers around the country. It soon became apparent there was a critical need to develop curriculum and instructional resources for PV systems, and I joined the NJATC staff in January 2006 to write the NJATC Photovoltaic Systems textbook, which is becoming the curriculum standard for colleges, vocational training and apprenticeship programs throughout the country. During three years with the NJATC, I also developed lessons, test items and conducted numerous presentations and train-the-trainer programs in support of the IBEW-NECA electrical apprenticeship program, and I continue to conduct training for the NJATC on a contracted basis.

In January 2009, I entered private practice to pursue my interests in PV systems engineering and project development, and to further support critical industry workforce and training needs for design professionals, manufacturers and integrators, contractors, building officials and educators. We have some exciting plans for online content, instructional resources and tools for industry professionals, so please register if you would like to receive updates. Thank you for visiting my website, and I hope you benefit from the experience and resources we offer.

For further information on my career, project summaries, publications, and service, please see the following links:

Career Summary | Projects and Research | Publications | Recognition