Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2014

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Prepare our workforce for clean energy jobs

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While we recover from high unemployment rates, Nevada communities continue to look for new ways to create jobs.

Nevada is home to a strong workforce and also is home to energy resources that could be valuable in rebuilding our economy.

The sun shines brightly in Nevada, making our state a target for large-scale solar energy projects.

Thanks to an Interior Department initiative and the world-class solar energy we’ve been blessed with, our state will play an important role in moving our country toward energy independence while creating jobs in Nevada.

Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the department’s final decision and plan for developing solar energy on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Nevada is home to 48 million acres of BLM land, which makes the Department of Interior’s plan vital to our ability to attract clean energy businesses to our state.

The crux of the plan guides projects away from sensitive lands into solar energy zones identified as suitable for development.

This approach will attract solar energy projects by offering greater certainty while smoothing the boom and bust cycle for counties such as mine, a win-win-win for counties, energy developers and conservationists.

As a county commissioner, I recognize that we need jobs — we need revenue and we need energy.

As a conservationist and a member of the Wilderness Society, I recognize that we have to be careful about where we build projects that have long-term impacts on big game and the land.

If we plan carefully and are smart from the start, we can avoid much of the conflict we have seen between protecting the environment and traditional energy development of the past.

The final solar energy plan identifies zones on public lands in six Western states. The plan includes five zones in Nevada, more than any other state.

Recognizing circumstances change, it also provides for designating new zones on about 9 million acres through variance applications, which will be evaluated as needed.

By avoiding important places such as key hunting areas, this approach will help ensure Nevada will be a significant part of America’s clean energy future for decades.

As a county commissioner, I will continue to push for smart development in Nevada as the plan is being implemented quickly and responsibly.

I am also working to ensure that royalty revenues created from local projects are returned to our communities and invested in conservation programs to offset some of the impacts of solar development.

Interior’s plan shows that there is room for conservation with energy development. This blueprint for development took several years of hard work and involved broad stakeholder engagement, including opportunities for local communities to participate in public meetings.

The process also allowed industry to have a seat at the table to find solutions that will be good for business, as well.

When you have this kind of consensus building happening, the results are strong and something we can improve upon over the years.

Now Nevada has to do its part. We must remain vigilant in seeing that projects are guided away from lands that are home to wildlife and sensitive water resources and into smart zones.

We must educate and train our workforce to take on these new clean energy jobs. Most importantly, we must recognize that cooperation between counties and agencies is essential and use Interior’s efforts as a model for future planning on other sensitive issues.

Chris Giunchigliani is a Clark County commissioner representing District E.

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  1. I always amuzed when greeners talk about clean energy. They always do so in terms of dirty dollars rather than conservation.

    CarmineD

  2. More needs to be done about "preparing our workforce for clean energy jobs". It starts with EDUCATION. But not only does it start with education, it also must include our local and state energy producers in this effort. Educating our young people solely about utility safety, simply doesn't do the real job of making them aware and preparing them for future careers in the "clean energy" industry.

    Why might this be? Well, with all due respect, it could be due to the conflict of interest Nevada utility companies have with their profitable and vested interest in coal-fire electric generation plants. Just look at the incomes of those who manage these, and their investors. No one is going to jump ship here, life the way it is, is, well, really great for them, while sticking it to the energy consumer stuck in a no win position and held as energy hostage. Sorry.

    The word is simply NOT getting out about careers to be had in clean energy. Whether it is elementary through high school, our young people are NOT hearing about it. The extent of NV Energy in our local classrooms has more to do with safety than anything else. I see the need, and would gladly put together a curiculum to educate those who hold an interest. This is not only our present, but our future!

    Somehow, while politically getting Nevada on board with the clean energy industry, our representatives have neglected educating the People here in Nevada about career options in the clean energy industry. With all the millions and billions of dollars spent by our political representatives on clean energy, where are the educational programs and outreaches to connect interested youth and People to learn more, or be assisted in their pursuits? It is not in our faces, not heard of in the public sector. That is the reality of it. There is something very wrong about that.

    Time to bring education and the clean energy industry together to prepare not only our workforce of today, but our workforce of the future! Build solid informational programs and outreaches. Bring clean energy into our schools. Through local services as VegasPBS, grants, scholarships, materials for teachers, even training for educators, project based learning, incentives for school Science Fair projects that feature clean energy innovations and or potential career connections, promoting websites as thefutureschannel.com which have STEM based lessons, all these things can bring it to both young people and adults, making them more aware of the present AND potential careers to be had in the clean energy industry.

    It is time to step up to the plate.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star