Local electricians plug into the sun.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Eco-energy was electric in Castroville last weekend, when a labor union’s parking lot doubled as a solar tech training lab.
During the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Nov. 7-8 “Solar Power Road Show,” IBEW’s Los Angeles chapter taught more than 100 local electricians how to install rooftop photovoltaic systems, avoid hazards with solar wiring and use a hand-held “solar eye” to map a site’s sun exposure throughout the year, among other skills.
“Electrical is a huge and intricate part of the green movement,” says Paul Gutierrez, director of industry development for IBEW Local 234. “We’re taking a hit as much as everyone else in the construction industry, but if everyone were to take advantage of the sun’s energy and step back from foreign oil, it would create thousands of jobs.”
Green jobs are being created at a rate two and a half times the overall job growth, according to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts study.
A little California sunshine doesn’t hurt. In addition to federal tax incentives, a spectrum of state policies helps drive growth in the solar industry. Along with the legislated goal of 1 million solar roofs by 2018 (950,000 to go, according to Environment California), two bills signed into law last month should warm up the solar job market: one making utility companies pay customers for producing surplus solar electricity, and another requiring them to buy solar power at a set rate over 20 years.
RSVPs from three county supervisors, several local mayors and members of the Workforce Investment Board speak to the economic potential of IBEW’s training. “[The solar market] is really untapped here in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties,” Gutierrez says, “but it’s going to revitalize our economy.”