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SOLAR TRAINING: Powering Homes And Jobs

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Iowans are soaking up the sun this Fourth of July. Some are hoping to use the rays to power jobs.

One group says Iowa has the same potential for solar power as Houston, Texas. And, they're training Iowans to harness that energy to help create electricity and jobs.

Joel Logan is learning the tools of the trade. He says, "Just trying to learn the fundamentals of solar."

He works for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities. And recently joined others, like Paul Burback, who says, "I work for Muscatine Power and Water."

And Tim Mueller, who says, "I'm with Solar Planet in Dubuque. We are solar installers."

The came to a workshop at the I-Green Training Center in Newton to learn the basics of installing solar systems on homes and businesses. U of I graduate student Suresh Niraula has even bigger plans. He says, "For me, I'm from Nepal. It's a developing country. My plan ultimately is to go back home and start solar energy on my own and kind of help out people."

They all attended a workshop by SolPowerPeople at I-Green. I-Green Director Phil Stender says, "We do training in green and renewable energy." He goes on to say, "What a lot of people in Iowa don't know is that Iowa actually has the same amount of sun as Houston, TX. So, Iowa is a great place for solar."

Stender says the training center partnered with SolPowerPeople to offer forty hours of training. So far, sixty people have participated in the workshops. The class is a first step to being certified to install systems by a national board. SolPowerPeople President Cathy Redson says, "This curriculum was largely created because right now the biggest need in the industry is trained installers that not only understand how technology works, but how to do it safely and in compliance with the code. That's where it starts."

Redson says bringing more solar power to the state won’t just help the environment. She says it will also bring jobs. She says, "This is an economic issue."

Redson says installing solar power systems creates jobs for electricians, roofers and contractors. She says, "There's potential for jobs on several fronts and the numbers we're talking, in the thousands."

Mueller says that's why he's here, to grow his business. He says, "We're having quite a surge in interest across the board."