by K Kaufmann, The Desert Sun
PALM SPRINGS — Green jobs have arrived in the Coachella Valley, and a pipeline of new renewable energy projects will keep the opportunities coming — along with a need for ongoing job training programs.
That was the message trumpeted from the dais at College of the Desert’s renewable energy training center in Palm Springs as state and local officials gathered to unveil the facility’s newest piece of equipment — a 120-foot-long solar thermal parabolic trough.
The new equipment will be used to train students — some of them previously unemployed construction workers — on the assembly and maintenance of the large solar troughs. The big mirrors of the trough are similar to those to be used at NextEra’s 250-megawatt Genesis project east of the Coachella Valley.
“What we’re finally seeing is not the promise of future renewable energy development, but the reality,” said California Energy Commission member Karen Douglas, who delivered the keynote address at the event.
Steve Sisco, 55, of Bermuda Dunes is one of 13 graduates of COD’s solar training program who have found work at NextEra and GE’s Desert Sunlight project, a 550-megawatt photovoltaic plant near Desert Center.
“I’m tickled to death I went through this,” Sisco said of the training program. “It’s kind of a cross of old skills and new technology. I was given an opportunity that changed my life and a lot of lives around me.”
Nathan Rudolph, construction manager for First Solar, which is building Desert Sunlight, said he now has about 335 workers on site, with about 270 coming from Riverside County.
The project should hit peak employment — more than 600 — by fall, jobs that should last about a year, he said. He has 16 more COD graduates he expects to hire soon.