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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Energy fair stresses jobs, training and ROI

From an article by George Leopold and video posted on EE Times:

CUSTER, Wis. — With the U.S. economy still in the tank and the ranks of the unemployed still growing, many visitors to this year's Midwest Renewable Energy Association's Energy Fair came here looking for work or a career change.

Engineers and other professionals flocked to sessions on subjects like "green-collar careers" at the 20th annual event in this bucolic central Wisconsin community. Renewable energy experts stressed the job-creating potential of emerging solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.

Meanwhile, vendors, mindful of the still-high up front costs for renewable energy systems, emphasized what they claimed is the shrinking time needed to recoup the cost of investment in new energy systems.

Workshops were heavy on the nuts and bolts of renewable energy, ranging from how to become a certified installer to the latest building codes and tax exemptions for energy-efficent homes and retrofits. Much of the discussion here was driven by Obama administration plans to pour billions of dollars into renewable energy programs aimed specifically at creating green jobs.

Job seekers were told they should have an intergrated set of professional skills covering electrical, electronics and even plumbing. One expect, Jason La Fleur of the green energy education group Eco Achievers, estimated that 110,000 solar energy installers will be needed over the next year.

Solar installation tops a growing list of green jobs that La Fleur said includes "eco-preneurs," urban planners and sustainable systems managers. Engineers already possess many of the skills needed to fill these new jobs, he added.

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