8minutenergy Renewables, LLC, a leading independent solar PV developer based in California, today announced a private-public partnership with the Calipatria Unified School District in Imperial Valley, Calif., to create a Renewable Energy Vocational Program (REV Program) to train high school graduates for careers in the solar industry. The Imperial Valley currently suffers from a 28% to 30% unemployment rate, the highest in California and nearly three times that of the national average. However, the Imperial Valley’s abundant sunshine and suitable land make it ideal for developing solar power.
The REV Program will maximize the districts proximity to numerous renewable energy sources in the Calipatria area to prepare young people for career opportunities and develop a skilled workforce to meet the needs of the burgeoning renewable energy industry. Last year, new jobs in the U.S. solar industry grew 6.8 percent and 100,000 people worked in the field, according to The Solar Foundation. In California, the solar industry is experiencing significant growth. Due to the state’s 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and target of generating 20,000 MW from renewable energy sources, the solar industry is expected to continue to grow and create jobs in California for at least the next five to seven years.
The agreement with the district calls for 8minutenergy to provide input on the development of the REV Program, including information about the skills, qualifications and training that solar developers will need in future employees. It will provide materials that support hands-on vocational training for students, such as solar panels. 8minutenergy will also deliver guest lectures and coordinate visits for students to its solar PV power generation facilities in the Imperial Valley.
The REV Program will take about a year to complete, and graduates will receive a certificate upon meeting the program’s requirements. Additionally, 8minutenergy will work closely with local companies and unions in the renewable energy industry to encourage the hiring of graduates from the REV Program for jobs as engineers, installers, maintenance staff and other positions.
"We are pleased to partner with the Calipatria Unified School District to develop educational and career opportunities for young people in the solar industry in a region that desperately needs jobs, said Sam Couchman, director of community relations for 8minutenergy Renewables. We look forward to working with high school graduates in the area to prepare them to share in the bright future solar technology is bringing to the Imperial Valley."
"The benefits of alternative energy, and the prospects for jobs in the growing solar industry, has created a lot of interest among young people about careers in solar energy," said Doug Kline, Superintendent of the Calipatria Unified School District. "The curriculum of the REV Program will give graduates the knowledge and skills they need to get jobs in the field. We are grateful to 8minutenergy for putting money and other resources into this program to the benefit of all parties.
"It’s an exciting time to be a part of the solar industry, which is poised for explosive growth and to deliver cleaner, more reliable and more environmentally friendly power, Tom Buttgenbach, president of 8minutenergy Renewables. Our solar projects in the Imperial Valley will generate billions in economic output, several hundred construction jobs and about 60 permanent, stable, well-paying jobs with benefits. The REV Program is a win-win for 8minutenergy and the school district, and demonstrates our long-term commitment to the people in the region.
8minutenergy has over 2,000 MW of solar PV power under development in California. In the Imperial Valley, the company has 12 solar farm projects underway. Over the life of these projects in the Imperial Valley, the ongoing fiscal and economic benefits are projected to produce: $4.4 billion in total economic output, 240 new jobs, $2 billion in direct expenditures, $60 million in additional property taxes, and a $32 million net fiscal impact on the general fund.
All 8minutenergy solar projects are considered in-state resources and are located on disturbed, low-value farm land. 8minutenergy strives to ensure that its solar power projects provide low cost, clean renewable energy from the sun with low environmental impacts, particularly when compared with public lands projects on pristine desert wildlands.