How To Get A Solar Job

Sundance Solar installs panels in Asheville, NC

“How can I get a solar job?” As I speak with groups and community members throughout our region about clean energy, this is by far one of the most frequently asked questions I hear, and for good reason! With headlines like Solar Creates 1 Out of Every 50 Jobs, and the reported $154 billion in economic impact in 2016 (according to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Job Census), it’s no surprise that the solar industry is catching the attention of job seekers.

In an increasingly diverse industry, the solar industry is building a reputation for providing well-paying jobs in a rapidly expanding market. With 67 percent of these jobs not even requiring a bachelor’s degree, this means one thing for a lot of people: opportunity! According the Solar Foundation, the median wage is $26 an hour for solar installers, however the industry also includes a wide range of job types such as manufacturing, sales, project development, finance, and marketing, just to name a few. The solar industry has also become a great fit for military veterans, with veterans currently making up 9 percent of the solar workforce as opposed to 6 percent of the national total.

All of that sounds great, but the question remains: How can somebody break into the industry if they don’t already have a foot in the door somewhere or any “solar” experience? Here are some answers and insights I’ve gained from asking those same questions myself, talking with local solar companies, and diving into the data provided by The Solar Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy and Employment Report.

For starters, job seekers generally find that a lot of their existing job skills transfer well to the solar industry. On the installation side, for example, this is essentially construction work, so experience in areas related to building trades such as construction labor, contracting, permitting, structural engineering, and design tend to be great skills to have on the solar side of things. Given the nature of solar installations, roofing and electrical work are also helpful skills to have, and many solar contractors began as one or the other. Stemming from these local contractor roots, it’s interesting to note that about half of the solar installers currently working in the US are from small companies of 10 or fewer employees. This is especially impressive when you put that stat next to the fact that installation jobs still represent the majority of positions in the industry, totaling 53 percent of all solar jobs.

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Wind Power in 2016? Jobs, Jobs, and More Jobs.

Credit: AWEA

Last week, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released its 9th edition of the U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report. It’s a comprehensive look at the U.S. wind industry’s market trends in 2016. The key takeaway? Jobs, jobs, and more jobs.  In 2016, the wind industry added nearly 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs, helping the industry surpass over 100,000 total American jobs. Last year, the industry added jobs over 9 times faster than the overall economy. 2016 was a record breaker for wind power job growth, and the fastest growing occupation in the country is wind turbine technicians.

The wind industry is taking off, recently surpassing hydropower as the number one source of renewable energy generation in the country. This strong growth is due to a host of factors which includes improved turbine technology efficiency and decreasing costs. Additionally, the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a federal tax incentive, was extended at the end of 2015, which provided the industry with a level of long-term certainty and stability in 2016. (Although it’s important to note that the PTC has begun phasing out, and will decrease by 20% in value each year until it is completely eliminated for new wind farm projects that begin construction in 2020). 

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Solar Amendment Implementation Moving Along

Amendment 4 Lawn SignThanks to lots of hard work by solar supporters across the state of Florida, legislation to implement Amendment 4 – which passed with 73% of the vote on the August ballot – is moving along in the State Capitol. Voters strongly supported removing barriers to solar by reducing taxes on solar systems.

Both Senate and House versions of bills have cleared all committee stops and will head soon to the floors of their respective chambers.

On the Senate side, SB 90 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is the clean version of the implementation bill. It has the full support of solar advocates.

The sponsor of the House Bill (HB 1351), Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers), voiced concerns over consumer protections so he drafted his bill with some troubling provisions. At the Commerce committee, the last stop in the House before the floor, a strike-all amendment vastly improved the bill but some in the solar industry are still raising concerns about the remaining disclosure requirements calling them needless regulatory overreach designed to create barriers to solar.

The bill sponsors are still in negotiation and we will see some changes when the bills hit the floor. The House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled.

Thanks for all you are doing and we will keep you posted on progress in Tallahassee.

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Deepwater Horizon Anniversary Reminds Why Offshore Drilling Should Be Phased Out, Not Expanded

Deepwater Horizon in Flames

Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Today is the seventh anniversary of the tragic Deepwater Horizon blowout. On April 20, 2010, the drilling rig sparked a massive explosion, which killed 11 people and set into motion 87 horrific days of pollution and destruction. Day-by-day, painful uncertainty persisted as more than 200,000 gallons of oil gushed into the ocean each day while attempts to stop the flow of oil failed. The fears of coastal residents and businesses came true as a total of 200 million gallons of oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, oiling over a thousand miles of coastline from Texas to Florida.

Livelihoods were jeopardized and even lost. For some oystermen, harvests went down by 75 percent or more from pre-2010 levels and shrimpers saw catches down by 80 percent or more. Tourism-based businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, and tour companies reported very difficult years along the Gulf in 2010, despite hoping for a big year to recover from the poor performance of the 2009 season. For example, Gulf Shores, AL and Orange Beach, AL reported a 41 percent decline in the number of tourists in 2010, compared to 2009, and lodging revenue for Baldwin County, AL dropped 33 percent ($58 million) during the summer of 2010 compared to 2009. Compared to 2009, Walton County, FL’s hotel occupancy levels in May 2010 were down 6 percent, food and beverage revenue was down 16 percent, and revenue from additional tourism-related products and services sold was down 32 percent. BP helped the tourism industry recover with major advertising campaigns, however much damage had already been done.

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People’s Climate Movement Marches Forward on April 29

On April 29, people all over the country will rise up to demonstrate the political will for serious action on climate change. There will be a major march in Washington, D.C. to show that regardless of political rhetoric, the majority of Americans favor fact-based action over denial. Dozens of sister marches will take place all over the Southeast for those who cannot make it to D.C. Please plan to attend your local event or hop on one of the many buses heading to D.C. Together, we will show our strength in numbers and demand accountability from our elected leaders.

Peoples Climate March on 4/29 in Washington D.C.

Join thousands of your fellow Americans for the historic march in our nation’s capital, which will likely be the largest ever mobilization of people to support climate action. April 29th will be the 100th day in office for President Trump, a known climate denier and fossil fuel proponent. The timing for the march is very significant, given the Trump administration’s recent executive order rolling back the Clean Power Plan. Our hard work towards climate action is seriously in jeopardy and there’s just no time to sit back and watch the seas and temperatures rise because we are now under a leader who denies the science behind climate change in favor of “alternative facts.”

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Hold on to your wallets – open letter to South Carolina power customers

Have you ever seen the commercial that ends with the saying “What’s in YOUR wallet?” Well if you are an electric power customer in South Carolina, the answer is a nuclear power train wreck!

Please let me take a minute and share with you a little southern straight talk about what has been happening while you have been trying to make an honest living. Some of the boys down the road hatched a plan to make money at your expense. They are going to tell you its really complicated and trust them, it will all work out just fine. But don’t you believe them for a minute. They’ve created a mess and you are paying for their mistakes.

Here is what you need to know – the boys in suits at South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) schemed up a way to make more money for their stockholders in 2006 by announcing plans to build a couple of fancy new nuclear power plants. They talked the boys in public power into joining the scheme. Next they went to the South Carolina legislature and had them pass a bill that basically said all the financial risk of building these great big power plants would be put on the ratepayers, like you and me, but all the profits would go to the stockholders in the companies and the executives would get big bonuses. You know the drill. See, they make money on every dollar they spend, so the more they spend, the more they make. The only problem is, it’s your money.

So once they had the politicians in on the deal, all they needed were the folks at the Public Service Commission (PSC) to “rubber stamp” the scheme. The PSC is supposed to protect you from these monopoly utility schemes that make big money for their stockholders. The PSC is charged with making sure your electric rates stay low and the lights stay on; however, let’s just say they’ve literally been asleep at the switch.  They ignored all the red flags that folks raised about the risks of building these big power plants and look what happened: the nuclear projects have gone way over budget – and I mean billions of dollars over budget – and are years behind schedule. And, because of these cost overruns and delays, your electric bill is going up, and is going to continue to go up, with no end in sight.

If this was not bad enough, it’s about to get a whole lot worse. This is the “train wreck” part. So a big Japanese company called Toshiba, bought the U.S. company Westinghouse. It was Westinghouse that designed and agreed to build a new design of nuclear reactors that have never operated anywhere in the world. Well, when they started falling behind schedule, Westinghouse executives talked Toshiba into buying the companies that were slow in doing the work. Before long Toshiba/Westinghouse about owned it all. When the costs kept going up, even the utility boys got nervous and soon the blame game began. And then came the lawsuits and now Westinghouse has filed for bankruptcy. Oh, but it gets worse: it appears that Westinghouse and Toshiba have made promises they can not fulfill, and the bookkeeping is so bad at Toshiba that the big accountants will not stand by the company’s audit. They may have to go out of business. What a train wreck!

Folks, here is the bottom line, and there always is a bottom line: this big power company’s scheme has backfired. The people you trusted are taking advantage of you and if you do not start demanding accountability, they are going to make it a whole lot worse on your wallets.

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Hold on to your wallets – open letter to Georgia Power customers

Have you ever seen the commercial that ends with the saying “What’s in YOUR wallet?” Well if you are an electric power customer in Georgia, the answer is a nuclear power train wreck!

Please let me take a minute and share with you a little southern straight talk about what has been happening while you have been trying to make an honest living. Some of the boys down the road hatched a plan to make money at your expense. They are going to tell you its really complicated and trust them, it will all work out just fine. But don’t you believe them for a minute. They’ve created a mess and you are paying for their mistakes.

Here is what you need to know – the boys in suits at Georgia Power schemed up a way to make more money for their stockholders in 2006 by announcing plans to build a couple of fancy new nuclear power plants. They talked the boys in public power into joining the scheme. Next they went to the Georgia legislature and had them pass a bill that basically said all the financial risk of building these great big power plants would be put on the ratepayers, like you and me, but all the profits would go to the stockholders in the companies and the executives would get big bonuses. You know the drill. See, they make money on every dollar they spend, so the more they spend, the more they make. The only problem is, it’s your money.

So once they had the politicians in on the deal, all they needed were the folks at the Public Service Commission (PSC) to “rubber stamp” the scheme. The PSC is supposed to protect you from these monopoly utility schemes that make big money for their stockholders. The PSC is charged with making sure your electric rates stay low and the lights stay on; however, let’s just say they’ve literally been asleep at the switch.  They ignored all the red flags that folks raised about the risks of building these big power plants and look what happened: the nuclear projects have gone way over budget – and I mean billions of dollars over budget – and are years behind schedule. And, because of these cost overruns and delays, your electric bill is going up, and is going to continue to go up, with no end in sight.

If this was not bad enough, it’s about to get a whole lot worse. This is the “train wreck” part. So a big Japanese company called Toshiba, bought the U.S. company Westinghouse. It was Westinghouse that designed and agreed to build a new design of nuclear reactors that have never operated anywhere in the world. Well, when they started falling behind schedule, Westinghouse executives talked Toshiba into buying the companies that were slow in doing the work. Before long Toshiba/Westinghouse about owned it all. When the costs kept going up, even the utility boys got nervous and soon the blame game began. And then came the lawsuits and now Westinghouse has filed for bankruptcy. Oh, but it gets worse: it appears that Westinghouse and Toshiba have made promises they can not fulfill, and the bookkeeping is so bad at Toshiba that the big accountants will not stand by the company’s audit. They may have to go out of business. What a train wreck!

Read more…

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What’s Wrong With This Picture? TVA’s So-Called Coal Ash “Solution”

The Tennessee Valley Authority is planning to “clean up” 13.4 million tons of coal ash by capping it in place.

Our new animation shows why cap in place is not a solution for unlined ash pits: it doesn’t keep ash separated from groundwater. Click the image on the left to watch the 30-second clip, and then please share it!

Tennesseeans will come together across the state during Earth Week for screenings of Coal Ash Stories, a series of short films documenting how coal ash impacts real people. The screenings are sponsored by SOCM with local Sierra Club and student groups. For a screening near you, visit our event page.

Later this year, the public will have the opportunity to comment on what the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is making TVA assess at its ash pits. While TDEC’s assessment process inches along, TVA is moving ahead with federal environmental assessments that set it on the path to cap unlined ash pits in place, even though TDEC may later require more thorough cleanup. Read more…

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Gulf Power Settlement is WIN for Consumers, Energy Efficiency, & Solar

Customers won big this month when Gulf Power, in a settlement of its proposed rate hike, pulled back on a requested huge increase in the fixed charge portion of customers’ bills. A big hike in the fixed charge would have unfairly penalized families that conserve and use less power and those that wish to use rooftop solar power. It would have also hit low and fixed income especially hard. The settlement was approved by the Florida Public Service Commission on April 4.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, along with League of Women Voters, challenged the fixed charge hike at the Florida Public Service Commission. If approved, it would have set a bad precedent for other power companies to attempt a similar fixed charge hikes. Read more…

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Considering an electric vehicle? There’s no better time with Nissan’s $10,000 instant rebate

UPDATE: PluginNC just announced the $10,000 instant rebate from Nissan is extended until June 30, 2017. Click here for more details and check with dealerships in your state if you live outside of NC.

If you live in North Carolina or Georgia (and some other states around the country) and have been considering buying an electric vehicle, there’s only a few days left to take advantage of an incredible incentive offered by Nissan: a $10,000 rebate for the all-electric Nissan LEAF through March 31st (now through June 30, 2017)

I know what you’re thinking: This sounds too good to be true, what’s the catch? Who gives 30 percent off on a new car when there’s already a $7,500 federal tax credit? What’s the matter with these cars?

Believe me, I thought all of these and more back in December when I first heard about this offer. My husband and I had been considering leasing or buying an electric car for a few years as we knew it would be ideal for urban commuting with low operating costs. However, the finances weren’t quite there for us and I just wasn’t ready to put my reliable older car out to pasture quite yet.

Then comes along this flyer promising an instant rebate (no waiting beside your mailbox for a someday refund) as well as the federal tax credit yielding savings up to $17,500. [The up to is an important detail: The federal incentive is only worth $7,500 to someone whose tax bill at the end of the year is $7,500 or more. It pays to do a little homework before you buy.]

According to Nissan and the EV advocacy groups (including Plug-in NC and Clean Cities Georgia) partnering to make this happen, this incentive was launched to encourage greater EV drivership to demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability and reducing greenhouse gases. Because the Nissan LEAF is 100 percent electric, each new LEAF represents a reduction of 6 to 9 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually for every gas engine car replaced, or the equivalent of planting 2,500 trees a year.

Ok, I thought, that all sounds good on paper (or in my case on a smart phone), but honestly, there has to be a catch. Read more…

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