California Renewable Energy News – The Wall Street Journal calls California the hub of this “economic slowdown”. I am sure they are right. Housing is the backbone of this country and California has alway lead the country in permits and construction jobs. We must reinvent ourselves and quickly expand the renewable energy industry to get out of this. Solar and wind energy are the future because they both create jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. Read More –
By John Means
Like most of California, Taft and the Southern San Joaquin Valley are experiencing double-digit unemployment rates and financially stressed local economies. Six Valley counties – Kern, Fresno, Stanislaus, Merced, San Joaquin and Madera – are on the Associated Press July index of the nation’s 20 most economically stressed counties. The index measures “financial strain” by examining unemployment, bankruptcy filings and foreclosures.
Calling California the epicenter of the national housing bust, The Wall Street Journal reported the state’s construction industry continues to hemorrhage jobs. Of the nation’s 12 metropolitan areas with jobless rates of 15 percent or higher in June, 10 were in California.
If the Southern San Joaquin Valley is to recover from this deep and persistent recession, new jobs must be found to replace those that have been lost.
The Kern Community College District and the West Kern Community College District have teamed up with community and industry groups, including the Kern Economic Development Corp. and Employers’ Training Resource, in a search for new jobs. A recent labor market survey revealed more than 2,000 new jobs are expected to be created in the wind and solar industries, specifically at utility-size energy generation plants in the Southern San Joaquin Valley and eastern Kern County.
The region’s climate, geography and natural resources have made it a pioneer in wind, solar, thermal and biomass energy generation development. Processing a record number of applications, area planners liken the new renewable energy projects to a modern-day gold rush. Just days ago, ground was broken east of Tehachapi for what is predicted to be the nation’s largest wind energy project.
To fill the jobs that this fast-growing industry is creating, workers must be trained. And that’s what Taft College in the West Kern Community College District, and Bakersfield College, Cero Coso Community College and Porterville College in the Kern Community College District intend to do with funding from state and federal grants. Providing green energy training here at home helps insure this industry that it will have a locally trained, capable workforce.
The renewable energy technician training programs started with a $707,000 grant in October from the California Clean Energy Workforce Training Program, which is administered by the California Energy Commission, and with a $2.4 million grant in March from the U.S. Labor Department.
But the industry itself also is stepping forward to help train workers. The renewable energy company enXco is contributing $160,000 to the Kern Community College District-led training effort for solar and wind. The donation will leverage federal and state funds and provide trainees with a direct conduit into good-paying jobs. It will also fund scholarships and paid internships to provide trainees with hands-on experience working alongside enXco’s operations and maintenance teams in Kern County wind projects.
A wholly owned American subsidiary of the international renewable energy corporation EDF Energies Nouvelles, enXco is a major player in the renewable energy industry in Kern County, as well as throughout the state and nation. The company recognizes the growing need for trained workers to operate its wind and solar panel plants.
Wind and solar companies also are helping create the training curriculum. The first half of the course focuses wind/solar technician trainees on mechanical and electrical skills. The second half provides specialization in either wind or solar technology. Eventually specialties in thermal energy and biomass will be offered.
State and federal grants allocated to begin this program require proof that the training is meeting industry needs. This generous donation by enXco is an exciting vote of confidence in the Kern Community College District’s innovative and collaborative solar and wind training program.
As a contributor to the community, enXco is committed to maintaining an ongoing partnership with the colleges to ensure the quality and relevance of the renewable energy training. The company will continue to help revise the curriculum and update equipment so that trainees can find good-paying jobs when they complete their studies.
The growth of Kern County’s renewable commercial and residential power energy industry provides hope for the region’s economic recovery, hope for residents who deserve to find new and exciting jobs, and hope that we will all have a cleaner, less polluted future.