Ever since President Obama initiated his climate change proposal called for the replacing coal-fired energy production in the US with renewable energy, coal workers have been leery of the rapid expansion of the solar power industry. Now solar might save communities by creating jobs and invigorating their local economies.
North American solar developer, Solar Alliance-Energy has announced plans to build a 500-kilowatt community solar production and battery storage project in southern Illinois through a recently created Clinton Foundation Initiative (CGI) commitment called “From Coal to Solar and Storage: Education Through Innovation”. A key part of the commitment is helping former coal industry workers find gainful employment in the booming solar industry.
“Solar energy can serve as a vehicle for change, helping transform communities burdened with high energy costs and high unemployment into centers of innovation, prosperity, and hope,” added Solar Alliance Chairman and CEO Jason Bak.
The 2.5-year project, is intended as a pilot template for future projects. It will address environmental concerns like air pollution and rising greenhouse gas emissions on local communities while focusing on retraining and employing 41 former coal workers with unique and applicable skill sets to build and maintain a utility-scale solar facility.
“This project will target a community in Illinois impacted by high electricity rates and high unemployment in the coal sector. The pilot project will strengthen the community by providing clean solar power, resilient battery backup, and lower electricity costs, while building capacity and providing a high-value skill set to an underemployed workforce,” said Bak.
Solar power is expected to be the most cost-effective form of energy within the next 10 to 20 years. A study conducted by Oregon State University found coal workers can find higher wages and job security in solar because they have a transferable range of mechanical and electrical skills. Retraining and integrating workers with previously established skills that translate well from coal to the solar sector will also save solar developers significant amounts of money.
As job positions in solar increase and the coal industry employment continues to shrink, ScienceBlog predicted a reduction of as many as 1,300 job-related deaths in the coal industry over the next 10 years. That prediction also called coal mines the second most dangerous workplace in the US. It surmised that former coal workers who become solar workers also will reap health benefits from lower exposure to hazardous work conditions and will avoid future health risks associated with coal mining.Tweet