Farewell Mr. Nemeth

Mike Nemeth and Sonic, blogging.

At SJVCEO we’re hiring.  Now, I’d love to say we are growing at such a rate that we have to staff up to meet the need.  The truth is our Mike is leaving us.  Mike Nemeth, resident blog master and EECBG project manager is moving on to the San Joaquin Valley Air PollutionControl District

Mike’s passion for energy and news provided the perfect combination to build the SJVCEO social media platform which has become a go-to resource for clean energy interests in the Valley.  While with the SJVCEO Mike oversaw the Clean Energy Partnership which provided technical experience to local governments resulting in millions of dollars in project retrofits and a savings of nearly 8 million kWh.  Mike’s last day with SJVCEO will be Monday, July 30th

From September 2009 to the present, Mike worked as Project Manager on the Clean Energy Partnership, serving as the liaison between the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, two Investor Owned Utilities, and the 36 local governments that make up the Partnership.  Mike also worked with the cities of Ceres and Delano on their Department of Energy direct-fund EEBCG projects.

In addition to his EECBG work Mike jumped headfirst into the world of green workforce development, leading our collaboration with West Hills Community College on the Valley Legacy Grant.  In this role, he narrowed the communication gap between educators and employers, contributing to an improvement between workforce development training and employers needs in the Valley’s “green” industry.  Mike’s efforts on the project helped to establish a beneficial and enduring working relationship with WHCC allowing the two entities to work together to improve the training for future workers and build capacity of locally-grown employees. Fortunately for our office, Mike chronicled his work on the WIA SJVCEO site, www.wiasjvceo.com, which provides useful resources for students, teachers and job seekers. The online repository provides lesson plans, studies, white papers as well as links to career sites and green employers—it even is home to a clean energy video vault.  Should you ever want to experience the view from atop a 25-story wind turbine without climbing one, the video vault can make it happen! Because of Mike the SJVCEO has received national praise for the service:

"It looks to me like you have done an invaluable service for the clean energy education community (really).  I was particularly interested in your work because it is so fresh, making it particularly valuable as I am sure you appreciate how dynamic the web environment is on this subject."                                                                    
--James Sulzen, PhD., Wesleyan University

I know I speak for our whole SJVCEO team in saying Mike’s departure will leave a large hole that will never be completely filled.  We wish him the best of luck in his new position as an Air Quality Specialist, and take comfort in knowing he will be less than a mile away!  

Thank you, Mike for your contribution to the organization, driving the fish truck full of LED Christmas lights, obscure references to things like Troll Hunter and the education you've provided us on all things Alaska.  You will be missed.  

Green jobs: Valley Legacy Project releases video on achievements

The Valley Legacy Project is meant to get the San Joaquin Valley's K-12 system, higher education and workforce investment boards working together to better prepare people for occupations with high-growth potential.

Those include agribusiness, biotech, water technology, renewable energy, manufacturing and supply-chain management.

Of course, at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, we care most about clean energy. We created a website, www.wiasjvceo.com, that is meant to be a one-stop shop for those looking for jobs or just to find out more about green energy.

The Valley Legacy video was presented at the annual California Partnership for the San Joaquin annual summit Oct. 7 in Bakersfield. It is short but has impact.

The project came about through a coalition of groups and great work from participating students, teachers, WIBs, the private sector and others.

Clean energy education site adds video archive

We've updated our http://www.wiasjvceo.com/ site yet again -- this time adding a video archive.

The site involves the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization's effort to bring clean energy information to students, teachers and job seekers and help prepare the Valley for a potential green invasion. Green as in economic development, that is.

On the site, we've included links to wind, solar, energy efficiency and even a video by our former co-worker at the Fresno Bee, Tracy Correa. She now works for PG&E, and the video is all about the new solar systems recently unveiled near the teeming metropolis of Five Points in rural Fresno County.

So give it a look. Pass it along. The site has all sorts of information. We've downloaded and linked to white papers, studies and reports. Our document library is growing every day.

We've also got a list of clean energy companies that operate in the area and a huge number of job search links.

Teachers: Please sample clean energy lesson plans

This past year, the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization worked on a project to prepare students for jobs in clean energy.

The jobs are coming, or at least that's what studies appear to show. And I've got my fingers crossed.

We worked with a number of groups on the Valley Legacy Grant project to develop a series of programs meant to steer the region's residents toward high-growth sectors of industry. Four teams established by the grant worked to bring those programs into high school, college and adult education classrooms across the Valley's eight counties.

The effort, supported by a grant from Workforce Investment Act, has been challenging but a success, providing a model that can be built and expanded upon in subsequent years.

Clean energy for educators

I'm writing this post in part to shine some attention on the website we created as part of this project, www.wiasjvceo.com, and share it with teachers. My wife's an English teacher who tells me all the time how she appreciates good lesson plan ideas.

And that's what this has. Ideas. Lots of them. And they're all about clean energy, the environment, green work place trends and even climate change.

We at the SJVCEO, headed up the Green Economy & Workforce Team on this grant. The effort combined the talents of San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, West Hills Community College District, the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, The Maddy Institute and the International Center for Water Technology. SJVCEO served as team leader.

The clean energy industry promises to be one of the more robust growth engines of the next decade and could prove pivotal to California's San Joaquin Valley, and this project set groundwork between the business community and education.

Nurturing the next generation

The connections begun by the Valley Legacy Grant are expected to continue and could, with some nurturing, bear significant fruit in years to come. Not only can the region’s young people transition into jobs and positions of influence, but the Valley itself could emerge as a leader in research and green energy generation.

A recent study by the Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs Network says that in California, in addition to having the most green jobs in the country, those jobs, totaling 178,500 positions, are likely to more than double to 433,000 by 2040.

And a list we stumbled across lists more than 90 solar projects in our region that appear to have few regulatory hurdles ahead of them. They cover a projected 64,000 acres. Big stuff that undoubtedly leave a big economic footprint.

Our mission: Position the region to better take advantage of that trend by assisting educators to teach their students about it.

Clean energy outreach

Our team developed a list of classroom friendly experts specializing in clean energy, compiled a comprehensive list of private and higher education green energy-related training programs and collected thousands of pages of reports, studies and white papers. All of it is provided to students, teachers and job seekers electronically.

Our team also has collected a vast arsenal of green energy-related curriculum that can be used or sampled by teachers. This information can be found at www.wiasjvceo.

Staff of the SJVCEO continues to update the site with new reports and the latest cleantech information. We'd like to see it shared far and wide. One of my thoughts is that teachers who create clean energy related lesson plans can share them on the site. Others who modify them could likewise share their work.

Keeping it going

The idea is to continue and grow the website long after the sunset date of the grant and help students realize the extent of the opportunities in the clean energy sector. After all, one of them may provide the next big breakthrough that helps clean our air and provides cheap energy and economic development.

The model we created could be replicated in any region on any scale. The effort does require volunteer labor from those in industry and likely that of members. But with very little time, a web presence can be established and outreach made. The material collected on our site could be used and our formats copied.

Earth Day: Don't mind the maggots

OK, OK. So I used a Rolling Stones "Some Girls" reference in the headline.

But my point is -- if I have one -- that on the eve of Earth Day 2011, debate over the environment appears as contentious as ever. For instance, on the late-night lineup of cable channel ABC Family, the Rev. Pat Robertson appeared questioning climate change as junk science. (My son had it tuned to the channel.)

Really? Pat Robertson? (He's still alive?) I shouldn't be surprised. The brutal economic downturn and televised armed conflict invading American living rooms on a daily basis have most of the country on edge. Politics is more heated than ever.

Environmental protections, climate change and clean energy look like luxuries easily jettisoned by people more interested in keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. There's no fault in taking advantage of unease to push political agenda. Heck, leverage is the American way.

Yet, the issue transcends the conservative-liberal divide. Clean energy is not limited to the granola-crunching Sierra Club member anymore. Wal-Mart is a huge proponent of sustainability and renewable energy. And Raytheon Co. just won an Energy Star Award for Sustained Excellence from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for "reducing energy intensity by 3 percent in 2010 and by 22 percent since 2007" and cutting more than 2 million kWh in 2010.

That's right, Raytheon, the Waltham, Mass.-based defense contractor that produces "missiles, smart munitions, close in weapons systems, projectiles, kinetic kill vehicles and directed energy effectors for the armed forces of the U.S. and other allied nations," according to yahoo.com finance.

Soon, I believe, a lot more of this clean energy stuff will make sense to J.Q. Public. Already, energy efficiency is moving into the corner hardware store in the form of light-emitting diode and compact fluorescent technology and programmable thermostats. Heating and air conditioning companies are even getting into the solar mode, advertising exactly what it would cost the consumer to install 10 modules.

Honest. In the Fresno Bee, which I still read despite being a casualty of its shrinking newsroom, an ad showed a system for $12,000. Tax incentives and rebates drop that by about $4,000, according to the company. That's approachable pricing, especially with summer AC power drains coming up.

On earthday.org, the site is trying to get people, organizations and corporations to embrace its "A Billion Acts of Green" campaign. The idea -- to pledge to live and act sustainably -- has reportedly received 45 million "actions" to date and seeks to register 1 billion in advance of the Earth Summit in Rio in 2012.

And why not? Many of these cost nothing.

For instance, T. Boone Pickens went big for wind power and now is investing in natural gas, joining with investment group Perseus in a $160 million deal to build a natural gas powered vehicle, according to a story by Katie Fehrenbacher at earth2tech.com.

Natural gas is abundant. We've got a lot of it up on Alaska's North Slope (just wait for Sarah Palin to start talking about the gas pipeline) and huge domestic reserves in the Lower 48 that can be accessed by the increasingly controversial method of hydraulic fracturing.

There may be traction on the natural gas front soon. Deirdre Shesgreen reported in ctmirror.org that Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., is working with Pickens to "promote legislation that would provide billions of dollars in tax incentives to spur the development and purchase of natural gas vehicles."

One of the first goals of the bill, dubbed the NAT GAS Act, should it pass would be to drive development of commercial trucks away from diesel and into the fold. But expect more stations around the country offering the fuel and more natural gas powered Honda Civics using them.

"It's abundant, it's accessible, it's American," Shesgreen quoted Larson as saying. "The events in the Middle East and the events that have happened tragically in Japan only further underscore the urgency behind this."

Ah yes. Security. There's the immediacy. Pickens also touts energy independence. Just check out his Pickens Plan website.

Advances also are being made in algae fuel, cellulosic ethanol and isobutanol. None of this should be partisan. It's just really interesting and could pay off with huge dividends.

And by dividends, I mean jobs.

That's what it's all about. Opportunity in this industry for me is personal. We're working to assist teachers to train the next generation for jobs in clean energy through the Valley Legacy Grant. The resources come from the Workforce Investment Act. I'd like to see the kids from rural San Joaquin Valley communities with 20-plus percent jobless rates get a leg up in a growing industry. For more, check out our site, http://www.wiasjvceo/.

But to get there, this nation's gotta chill on the rhetoric. And it comes from both sides. I can rip on the Republicans, but the greenies do the same thing.

In a story on Huffington Post by Brenden DeMelle, executive director of desmogblog.com, about climate-related dangers of methane emissions from shale gas fracking, a commenter who goes by the name gdauth provided perspective. DeMelle called his post "Highway to Hell," and I do appreciate the AC/DC Bon Scott reference.

"Let's see," writes gdauth. "Can't use natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear, hydro; what is left? Wind? Nope can't use that it kills birds. Geothermal­? Don't have any in Florida. How about solar? The Chinese own all the factories, besides a hail storm and a tornado wiped out the solar farm that looks like h*** anyway. Besides the Chinese own all of the battery factories so what o we do at night? I guess I will go home to my cardboard box under the bridge and cook my spam over a candle."

Yep, take a bite of the big apple. Just don't mind the maggots. It's a big issue and maybe we'll figure out how to get it all down.

Photo: Courtesy earthday.org

Project seeks to inspire a new generation to seek green fortunes

This video highlights San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization's work in the Valley Legacy Grant.

The funds come from the Workforce Investment Act, and SJVCEO's role, although small, is to help teach people about clean energy. We're working with teachers, institutions and the private sector to help provide an educated work force ready for an emerging industry.

For a definition of the grant, I'll defer to this recently published report by our partners at the Office of Community and Economic Development at California State University, Fresno.

Mike Dozier, secretariat for the Office of Community and Economic Development, explained the reason why this effort is important in his introduction to the report: "As the San Joaquin Valley is facing difficult economic times, it has become more critical than ever before that we as a region continue our collaboration efforts. Through the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, the public and private sectors are driving toward improving the quality of life for our residents."

The San Joaquin Valley as a whole has an unemployment rate nearing 20 percent, and that figure just represents those still on the books looking for work. The reality is likely much worse.

Here at the SJVCEO, we believe the clean energy sector is a potential game changer and we're trying to do what we can to inspire folks to jump on the entrepreneurial band-wagon and figure out how to make the Valley a kingpin in an emerging industry.

"The purpose of Valley Legacy is to bring the San Joaquin Valley’s K-12 system, higher education and work force investment board systems into alignment to better prepare people for occupations in high-growth industry sectors in the San Joaquin Valley," the report says.

Those sectors include:
  • Agribusiness, including food processing and biotechnology
  • Water technology
  • Renewable energy
  • Manufacturing
  • Supply chain management
The report continues: "In the current K-12 system, young people receive an education that is designed to maximize success in passing standardized tests. That’s a worthy goal; but most students come out of high school with no preparation for careers in the Valley.

"Most of those who don’t go on to college end up at some low-paying, dead-end job. Some students then go to the County Workforce Investment Boards, which act as a 'second-chance' system to train people for jobs with career advancement; but the WIBs receive funding to assist only a small percentage of those who apply.

"What needs to be improved is the 'first-chance' system. High-school students need to graduate with options: the option to go to a four-year college; to go to a community college; enter directly into the Valley workforce; or even to start their own business."

We think it could work. Advances in biofuel technology, increasing demand for solar power, fossil fuel price boosts and overall escalating consumption of electrical power make clean energy a worthy pursuit. With advances, much of it may be on par price-wise with traditional energy sources or even less.