Students in Haywood Community College’s Photovoltaics class recently got real-life hands-on experience installing solar PV panels at the college’s Regional High Technology Center. These students worked with local company Balls Machine and Manufacturing Company to set up four arrays totaling 8kW. These panels will serve several functions including increasing public awareness of solar energy and saving on the Center’s electric bill all while giving the students an excellent item to add to their portfolios.

According to Jim Falbo, HCC Electronic Engineering instructor, “As energy costs go up, the costs of solar are going down. Technology is getting better but costing less.”

For Deborah Porto, HCC Department Chair of Advanced Technologies, the chance to work with Balls Machine and Manufacturing Company to design and install the solar PV panels was a chance to combine two of her main focuses together. “Balls Machine and Manufacturing Company created a new division, Solarnomics ( several years ago to develop residential and commercial photovoltaic systems.  Balls Machine Company is an example of the future of green workforce employers.  They are a traditional machine shop that sees the future in developing PV systems.  It is such a great opportunity to allow our students and the community to learn about solar energy while being able to partner with a local business. HCC strives to move forward with green initiatives such as photovoltaics, while working with businesses that are right here in our community.”

Gary Ball, owner of Balls Machine and Manufacturing, has some of the same ideas in mind. “We want to educate people about how easy it is to use and install solar panels and they will then see how cost efficient it is.”

Ball says he added solar to his business three years ago and last year the solar side of his business was up 60%. “As we watched industries leave the area, we were left not knowing what to do next,” Ball explains. “Green was the big thing coming and adding solar fit what we already had.”

Ball says his company is not like most companies who buy the components to make these solar systems. Through the manufacturing side of his business, the components are designed and manufactured in house.

Balls Machine and Manufacturing works with homeowners to install solar panels for them, as well as with other companies and builders. In addition, they sell do-it-yourself kits.

For more information about the company, visit online at For more information about HCC’s Photovoltaic class or the Electronic Engineering Program, please call 627-4631.