Congressman Lipinski Applauds Local IBEW-NECA Green Technology Training Program (June 3, 2009)

During a visit to the IBEW-NECA Technical Institute in Alsip last week, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) congratulated the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 and the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Chicago for their success in training workers who are helping to lead America’s transition to a green economy. 

A leading proponent of renewable energy and one of the few members of Congress trained as an engineer, Lipinski took a keen interest in the institute’s program in photovoltaics – more commonly known as solar panels – during a presentation at the school.

“I want to compliment IBEW and NECA on their foresight and their focus on training the workforce of today and the future,” Lipinski said. “As one of the cleanest power-generating technologies in existence, photovoltaics help reduce both air pollution and climate change, as well as increase American energy independence. And as an emerging high-tech industry, it will be a potent source of jobs for years to come.”

The institute, jointly run by the contractors’ association and the union, offers its journeymen and apprentices a total of 26 weeks of training in every aspect of installing photovoltaic systems. Local 134 reports its members have installed approximately 3.5 megawatts worth of photovoltaic systems throughout the region.

Even as the skies were overcast during Congressman Lipinski’s visit, a photovoltaic array at the institute was generating enough electricity to power an air-conditioning unit capable of cooling an average-sized home.

The national market for solar energy is already worth about $2 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. One estimate cited by the DOE puts the number of direct and indirect jobs that could be created by the solar power industry by 2020 at 150,000. And although many solar energy systems remain more expensive than traditional options, costs have fallen steadily.

Veteran institute instructor Harold Ohde reports that in the last few years, interest in his photovoltaics class has grown rapidly, to the point that he expects to have around 100 people enrolled in his courses this fall. Meanwhile, more individuals, businesses and institutions are seeking to install solar panels, he said.

“We’re starting to get more and more projects as time goes on,” Ohde said. “A lot of people are thinking about renewable energy, and competition has driven the price of everything way down.”

Lipinski said that as the country works to grow its clean-energy sector, it is essential to promote promising technologies that can lead to the creation of good-paying jobs.

“The solutions of tomorrow are being developed today, as the administrators, instructors, and students of the IBEW-NECA Technical Institute clearly understand,” he said.


(June 3, 2009)