Business

Solar industry flourishes in the Central Valley

Monday, April 09, 2012

The sun beats down on Fresno 267 days out of the year, making it an ideal location for solar power.

Tom Cotter said, "Clovis and Fresno when you look at them together it is the 3rd most popular solar market in California."

And its not just all those sunny days that's making the Central Valley a hot spot for the industry. It's also because solar is much more affordable than it use to be.

Tom Cotter, manager with Real Goods Solar, says most of the people who choose this alternative energy source are not paying anything or very little to get it installed. "They are using a third party financing option like a power purchase agreement."

That's what Fresno State did... those solar panels mounted on top of the carport were financed through a power purchase agreement with a financial group. The group owns and operates the insulation and Fresno State purchases the power.

Cotter says that's why we are seeing the expansive growth in the solar industry. "You can sign a piece of paper and you can enroll to get cheaper power than what your utility can provide."

With growth, comes jobs, some 20-thousand created in this next year in California alone. And companies like Real Goods Solar in Clovis are hiring. "Right now at real goods we are accepting applications for installers, we are also hiring sales people and we are also hiring part-time solar advocates."

For people looking to get into the business at the ground level places like Proteus an employment service, offers a six week training program for installers.

Edgar Melgar said, "We offer an entry level course learning the basics of construction, electricity basics; we offer OSHA safety 10 hours of OSHA safety."

Instructor Edgar Melgar says he gets calls everyday from company's looking for workers. "For anybody in the Valley that's unemployed this is the perfect opportunity for them to get back into the industry, whether you have construction background, roofing, plumbing this is it for you."

There are also opportunities for highly skilled workers. AC Electric is one of the largest electrical contractors in the Central Valley and employs over 200 people. Some of the big solar projects they've worked on; the Fresno airport Bakersfield College, and UC Merced.

Bill Milam said, "We do the design, engineering, the install the sale the whole entire process is turnkey with us."

Executive, Bill Milam says the company prides itself on its in house operations. "We do full training our people are rigorously trained. They are certified to be able to sell, install and design solar."

Milam says solar is a great place to be right now and not just for companies like his but workers too.

Melgar said, "I tell my friends, I missed the internet boom, I missed the cellphone boom, and we're not going to miss the solar boom."

Installers are the entry level positions and those workers start out at around eleven dollars an hour. But some choose to get additional training and become electricians, which is why companies are always looking for installers. And there are several places that will train you for that position.

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