Discovering Renewable Energy

How can students design and implement real world solutions to discover the power and the possibility of renewable energy as a career?

In 2007, the Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) launched the first ever Renewable Energy Technology training program. Initially taking on only 20 students a year, the program aimed to provide a highly trained local workforce to the many wind farms cropping up in the area. The success and impact of the program have been widely recognized, especially by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) that rewarded the program with one of its first three Seals of Approval in January 2011.

Local Investment. On top of their schoolwork, several members of a CGCC student group called the Delta Energy Club, have partnered with Focus the Nation and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center to work a multi-step process toward energy efficiency and renewable power. A similar Community Solar project located just off, and visible from, Interstate-90 in Ellensburg, WA inspired this hands-on student project, called The Dalles Community Solar Project. The collaborative effort has improved the energy efficiency of the Discovery Center through retrofits to maximize the features built into the structure. The second step, beginning in 2012, will be the design and installation of solar panels on the roof of the structure to power its operations and potentially feed back to the grid. Once that is complete, the final stage of the project will be to construct a solar array in the open space adjacent to the facility. 

A Clean Energy Workforce. One of the driving forces behind the creation of the training program was the number of local renewable energy technician positions projected over the next few years -- more than 1,200 at the peak of wind farm siting and construction.  That number has since stabilized, but wind generation continues to demand technicians, managers and other specialists. And more jobs are being created through solar, geothermal and other clean-tech investment. The CGCC training program, and others like it, are serving to fill this very important portion of the market with locally trained specialists. 

Key Players:

Renewable Energy Technology Program, Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) - represented by: Dave Castle, student; Dan Spatz, Chief Institutional Advancement Officer 

CGCC offers comprehensive premier workforce training in a broad range of Renewable Energy Technology Industries by providing students with: a technical program taught by experienced instructors held to the highest academic standards; industry endorsed skills training using standard technology and tools for safety, mechanical, and electronic applications; and facilitation of employment and career pathway opportunities. The Delta Energy Club, a student group at CGCC, partnered with Focus the Nation and the Discovery Center. Dan Spatz is also a member of The Dalles City Council. 

Focus the Nation - represented by: Garett Brennan, Executive Director

Focus the Nation is the country's leading clean energy youth empowerment organization and supports rising leaders in launching careers that accelerate the transition to clean energy in all fifty states.   Since 2008, the organization has helped more than 300,000 young people engage in direct dialogue with business and elected leaders around energy solutions.

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center - represented by: Caroline Purcell, Executive Director

The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center fosters appreciation and stewardship of the Columbia River Gorge and Wasco County through collection, preservation, and interpretation of cultural and natural history resources. It has partnered with Focus the Nation and the students of the Delta Energy Club.

Renewable Northwest

Renewable Northwest's mission is to promote the implementation of environmentally responsible renewable resources, such as wind, solar and geothermal, in the Northwest.


Author Bio

Bobby is former Solutions Stories and Media Manager with Climate Solutions. In that role, he worked to identify and engage new audiences for our programs and campaigns throughout the Northwest, with a focus on the Solutions Stories.

Bobby spent six years as the National Representative at the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition (SOS), mobilizing support to restore the Columbia-Snake River Basin, a watershed home to some of the world’s best habitat for wild salmon and steelhead in a changing climate.

After receiving his degree in Political Science from the University of Oregon in 2003, he advocated on behalf of working people and the environment. In addition to SOS, Bobby has worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 503) and America Coming Together, and volunteered for the Trout Unlimited, Elders in Action, and UNITE HERE.

Bobby hails from central Pennsylvania and has lived in Oregon since 1998. When he's not working, Bobby can be found with his partner Jenny and their cat Jove, playing music with friends, out and about on his bike, or working in the garden.

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