A new solar power project in Imperial County, California has put the marriage of environmental interest and job-creation on display with the signing of a Project Labor Agreement that will bring local hire to the clean energy Calexico I and Calexico II projects.
The Sierra Club, Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have all pledged their support for the project that will produce 600MW annually and can power more than 200,000 households:
“These projects are truly a win-win for local Imperial County workers and the environment,” said Johnny Simpson, Business Manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569. “They will create good, middle-class green jobs with skilled training, healthcare benefits and pension retirement while reducing polluting greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.”
Environmental groups have been slower to warm to solar projects than one would expect, partially because of the possible environmental damages of building on new lands. However, this project is built on private land. By connecting to the pre-existing grid the project will have a minimum effect on the environment.
“After close examination, the Sierra Club decided to support these projects due to the developer’s willingness to provide support and funding for a program that should provide a higher level of protection for the imperiled burrowing owl, a species potentially affected by the large-scale development of solar,” said Bill Corcoran, Western Regional Campaign Director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “We strongly support moving the development of large-scale clean energy projects away from pristine lands, and 8minutenergy’s proposal is an appropriate balancing of solar energy production with the protection of our natural legacy.”
Environmental groups and unions make perfect business partners when it comes to alternative energy because both are interested in creating a quality product that positively affects the community. The PLA negotiated by the IBEW will be key in ensuring diversity and safety standards, as well as the aforementioned local hire in Imperial County, the area with the highest unemployment rate in the state at 27 percent.