Getting Vets Involved in LA Solar Power
PermaCity Solar CEO Jonathan Port wanted to achieve a number of goals with the 16. 4 MW Westmont solar power project the company recently completed at the Port of Los Angeles—and high among those goals was helping to put America’s military veterans back to work.
“We made that a priority with the Westmont project,” said Port. “There are thousands of veterans coming back from service, and there are a lot of people displaced in the way the American economy is changing. Renewable energy is one of the larger drivers of jobs making up for that change.
“We’re very proud that we were able to give a group of veterans the opportunity to work on Westmont—it’s just the right thing to do,” he added. “Vets can have trouble getting jobs.”
The involvement of the vets was directed by Empower America, a nonprofit coalition of leaders and experts in the renewable energy industry. It has a focus on workforce development, construction, and political advocacy. Empower America’s mission is simple: to recruit, train and employ service veterans into renewable energy projects.
PermaCity’s proprietary racking used on the Westmont project required learning specific membrane welding skills, and with the help of Local 300, Local 1309, IBEW Local 11, the 50 vets working on the project were able to learn those skills—and much more. “We feel the unions really stepped up to help with this,” says Port.
Empower America recruited the vets, the union made them journeyman members, and the union provided training. The project received the support of the city of Los Angeles, who provided funding for the training. Empower America worked with Leaders Solar, who was sponsored by PermaCity to proved the Labor. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti is part of the larger military family, being a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Port is a member of the city of LA’s Workforce Development Board. “It was a goal of mine to work with labor groups and vets—I wanted to make sure we created good jobs for our veterans.”
It was actually the city of LA, through the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and its Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program, that made the Westmont project a go. “The FiT program made Westmont possible,” said Port. “We negotiated with the LADWP to go into the program with this project.” Westmont is said to be the largest solar FiT project in the U.S.
The 50-acre project, on the roofs of Westmont Drive buildings in San Pedro, will generate 16.4 megawatts of solar energy for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) customers, more than triple the capacity of the next largest Feed-in Tariff project, in East Los Angeles.
Source: enerG Magazine