Stories from the Rooftop

U.S. Senator Heinrich helps workers for Positive Energy Solar install rooftop solar panels on top of a home in Santa Fe, July 5, 2017.

Earlier this month, I was in Santa Fe helping install rooftop solar panels on a job site with workers from locally-owned business Positive Energy Solar. Jobs in New Mexico’s solar industry increased by 54 percent last year. Almost 3,000 New Mexicans work in this rapidly growing field. It was great to talk with four New Mexicans on one of their job sites about what led them to this line of work. Here are their stories:

Joe, Solar Installer

Joe’s father was an electrician in Las Cruces and got him interested in this line of work. Joe studied geology at New Mexico State University, where he grew interested in working in renewable energy.

Rita, Solar Installer

Rita is an AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity alum. She wanted to continue to do work that allowed her to use her hands in an industry that is environmentally friendly. She told me that she has been an installer for one year.

Ryan, Solar Installer

Ryan always knew he wanted to do something that was hands-on. He originally went to school to be an architect but decided to change gears to complete a year and a half solar industry training program at Central New Mexico Community College. He is currently gaining new skills through an electrician training program thanks to support from Positive Energy Solar.

Wes, Field Manager

Wes manages the team of installers on each project. Wes went to school to study renewable energy. He started as a temporary worker for the company and has risen to a managing role.

After working with these New Mexico solar installers in the morning, I had the pleasure of joining the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce for their monthly luncheon to talk about the enormous economic impact of clean energy and our public lands. While I was on the rooftop, I spoke with Santa Fe Public Radio KSFR.

With our incredible potential for both solar and wind energy alongside innovative research and development at our national laboratories and universities, New Mexico is poised to become a major producer and exporter of clean power. That will mean thousands of new jobs — from rural wind technicians to urban solar installers and maintenance workers.

We should be doing everything we can to tap into this major economic opportunity and train New Mexico workers and students for these jobs of the future. I introduced the Energy Workforce for the 21st Century Act earlier this year to meet the growing clean energy workforce needs and create a comprehensive strategy at the Department of Energy to increase the participation of women and minorities throughout the energy sector.

Despite the many disheartening actions and decisions coming from the Trump White House, we are proving in New Mexico that we can meet our climate goals and move toward cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy while creating thousands of new jobs in our communities. I remain committed to using my role on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to keep moving our nation and state’s energy economy forward.