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Op-Ed Published in the Kansas City Star March 6, 2017

Op-Ed Published in the Kansas City Star March 6, 2017

Recently, President Trump stood in front of a brand new Boeing Dreamliner in South Carolina and told his audience, “We're here today to celebrate American engineering and American manufacturing. We're also here today to celebrate jobs. Jobs.”

While the president consistently talks about creating jobs in America, our clean energy sector is busier than ever producing them: 3 million and counting, according to new government data.

These jobs, spread across the country, include 2 million workers making homes, buildings, appliances, and other products more energy efficient. That saves families and businesses money.

Another nearly 500,000 Americans work in clean power generation, including wind and solar power; 200,000 more work in advanced grid and biofuels; and yet another 200,000 are employed in clean transportation such as hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles.

This clean energy boom is a shining light on the American jobs and manufacturing landscape.

But President Trump has promised to gut the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan aimed at cleaning up dirty air that makes us sick and drives climate change. In doing so, the president would be throttling the strongest engine of job growth in our country: clean energy.

We can’t afford to lose momentum in what is a key economic play of our lifetime—the global race for clean energy.

That’s why Senator Claire McCaskill was right when she recently rejected Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. She stood up for the interest of the people, environment, and economy of Missouri.

It was clear before the vote Pruitt wasn’t right for the job. As attorney general, he’d sued the EPA more than a dozen times, often joining with fossil fuel interests, to block health and clean air protections, including the Clean Power Plan—which also will propel clean energy.

That became much clearer this week when the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, on court orders, released thousands of emails showing how deep Pruitt’s ties run to the industries he’s now entrusted to police. Pruitt so ingrained himself with energy companies that they referred to him and his allies as “the fossil energy AGs.”

The emails and his record show a public official using his office as a platform to advocate on the fossil fuel industry’s behalf. That doesn’t instill much confidence that— now that the Senate has confirmed him as EPA administrator—he’ll abandon his fossil fuel allies to advocate instead for clean energy.

We’ll be looking for Sen. McCaskill to continue looking out for us in that arena because the national trends of clean energy growth are underway here, too, in Missouri.

Today, more than 52,400 Missourians work in clean energy jobs, mainly in energy efficiency and clean vehicles, according to Clean Jobs Midwest, a comprehensive survey by the Clean Energy Trust which includes Environmental Entrepreneurs, a clean energy advocacy group.

More than 80 percent of the clean energy businesses in Missouri employ fewer than 25 people, illustrating the important role small businesses play in the clean energy sector.

Those clean energy workers represent 1.9 percent of Missouri’s workforce today. But the state has the highest projected clean energy growth rate in the 12 Midwest states surveyed, an estimated 8.3 percent.

Missouri could reach that horizon by promoting more energy efficiency measures and action to create jobs installing wind towers, solar panels and solar energy systems. About 4,200 Missourians are employed now in these fields. Many more could be.

That’s because at this time Missouri generates less than 5 percent of its power from renewable wind and solar sources. The untapped energy source is ripe for expansion, and we’ll all benefit.

It’s certainly one way to keep jobs in America by growing them at home, in places like Rolla, Springfield and Joplin, as well as St. Louis and Kansas City.

This is why we’re grateful Sen. McCaskill stood against Pruitt’s nomination, and why we know she’ll hold him accountable to treat all sources of energy fairly, especially clean energy and the good-paying jobs it engenders. Continuing to do so will protect our future and the prosperous lives we hope for our children.

 

Bob Solger is the founder of Solar Design Studio, based in Platte City

 

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What Our Clients Are Saying

I have researched adding PV to my home for several years and have met with several PV providers in the KC area and they tend to fall into two broad categories, the new and low budget operators who got into this to ride the wave and are not that knowledgeable, and the commercial providers who have little interest in working with a homeowner and are geared to providing a much larger system where some economy of scale must come into play. Both my wife and I are architects and we wanted something different and it was challenging to find someone who was interested in doing something out of the ordinary. Neither or those types were interested in working with us as we were trying to create something a bit different. they each wanted to sell us their pre-configured solutions.

 

Fortunately we found Bob Solger. He has been a delight to work with and is incredibly knowledgeable and responsive. We wanted to create a solar carport that would provide cover and protection for our cars, but would also provide shade over part of our patio. In essence, the big idea was to create an outdoor pavilion, when, if we wanted to entertain we could move the cars out of the way and have a large covered area for an outdoor gathering. We had selected the Lumos brand of solar panels as they have a very clean look and are partially transparent so some light filters through the panels creating a mottled light pattern on the ground, similar to the shading from a tree. In addition, the system is set up to hide the majority of the connecting wires in the support beams so when you look up at the underside of the PV roof you see a very clean look. Bob recognized our goal and worked with us to ensure the project’s success. Bob identified a structural engineer to design an elegant support structure and found a fabricator to build it affordably. Finally he connected us with a contracting team to clear the space, provide the footings, retaining walls, and pad, who were every bit as careful with everything as you would hope. They were amazingly accommodating to every request and understood that there were a lot of competing challenges that needed to be resolved so we could fit this all in to a very tight location and make it look like it belongs.

 

The bottom line is that it all turned out better than we could have hoped and while it did cost more than the low ball bids received from some of the low budget operators, it was less than the commercially focused suppliers, and more importantly we got the design we wanted and a well-constructed PV carport that will give us great delight for years to come. The best part is of course the savings on our electric bill, which thus far has been averaging around $200/month. So not only do we have a new carport and entertainment patio that our neighbors have been stopping by and admiring (which given that we live in the older Brookside neighborhood and our PV carport is quite modern, we were much relieved) but, our electric bills have been in the under $10/month range.

 

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Bob and his knowledge and team for helping to create an amazing PV carport for us. I’m sure you would be delighted with whatever you engage him to help you with.

Dev & Sue Malik

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