|San Diego IBEW Organizes Clean, Green Jobs
The burning desert heat of southeastern California, from the outskirts of San Diego in the west to the Arizona border, can reach more than 110° F, making it one of the driest and hottest parts of the state.
Historically there were few people and fewer jobs but officials in western San Diego county and Imperial Valley are proudly touting the region as ground zero for the Golden State's green revolution, which is creating hundreds of jobs on wind, solar and geothermal projects.
"We work to make sure that green jobs, like solar, wind, geothermal, electric car charging stations, are IBEW jobs and also to build partnerships between our local and the environmental community so we can build power and strengthen our community," San Diego Local 569 Environmental Organizer Micah Mitrosky told an IBEW video team.
Ambitious green energy legislation mandates that a third of the state's power supply come from renewable resources by 2020. Business, labor and community leaders are tapping into the rich resources of sun and wind to make southeastern California a leading center for green jobs.
Local 569 got onto the renewable energy bandwagon early, initiating its first training in solar technologies in 1999. The idea that solar power could be a real alternative to coal and gas seemed naïve to skeptics at the time, but the IBEW's efforts to get on the ground floor of this emerging energy technology has paid off, making the local one of the leaders in photovoltaic training.
With work running low since 2008, green projects have been a lifeline for Local 569 members.
"Organizing these projects has been very important for our members because the work has been slow for the last couple years and our members have been training for these green projects and this gives them another place to work and develop their skill set as IBEW electricians," says Local 569 Assistant Business Manager Nick Segura.
Green jobs have also given Local 569 the opportunity to recruit new workers to the trades who might never have found their way into the union. In 2009, the local opened a training center in Imperial County, which for decades had been one of California's poorest jurisdictions.
The thousands of megawatts in renewable energy projects that have been built in the county have meant job opportunities for local workers. And Local 569 has been on the forefront of training and recruiting county residents for this growing part of the economy.
"Our priority is to put county residents to work on these projects and to grow our local, skilled IBEW work force in the Imperial Valley," says Mitrosky.
More than 50 members are working in Imperial County building a 140-megawatt solar farm, with the majority of workers drawn from the county itself, says Mitrosky. And it's not just solar. The local also has dozens of IBEW members building a 330-megawatt wind farm — once again built mainly by local residents.
"We're looking at minimum five years of consistent renewable energy work," she says.
Watch Local 569 members hard at work on a 26-megawatt solar project that will sell clean energy to San Diego Gas and Electric at.