Special Report: The Energy Sector


RENEWABLES: Growth, Political Support Open Opportunities for UBC

Based on emerging opportunities in renewable energy, the UBC is aggressively working to ensure its carpenters and millwrights are prepared to help signatory contractors take full advantage of opportunities found in this new facet of North America’s energy industry.

For example, the Brotherhood recently created the UBC Renewable Energy Committee, which will work for the exchange of information across the United States and Canada in order to stay abreast of legislative, training, and marketing opportunities.

Renewables now constitute more than 8 percent of total U.S. consumption, including 10 percent of electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“We have a diverse group from across Canada and the United States who represent UBC crafts,” said UBC International Millwright Representative Dan Bark, chairman of the 16-member committee. “We want to be a clearinghouse of market conditions and best practices in training for signatory contractors and union officials. We are tracking renewable energy initiatives in various stages of development all over North America, as well as issues being debated in state, provincial, and federal legislatures.”

Bark outlined various example scenarios where the UBC is making a difference in the effort to develop new clean, reliable, renewable sources of energy:

 
SOLAR POWER 

U.S. employment in the solar industry grew 6.8 percent in the last year and topped 100,000 in August, with more than half of those jobs in construction and installation, according to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census for 2011, which predicts an additional 24 percent employment increase over the next 12 months.

The Carpenters International Training Fund, developer of training for the UBC, recently launched an initiative to prepare members for work opportunities installing rooftop solar arrays on new and existing commercial and residential buildings. The Solar Installer Qualification course, taught at the International Training Center in Las Vegas, makes use of the training fund’s “train-the-trainer” philosophy to rapidly get in-demand job skills into the field.

 

WIND POWER 

The Boston-based developers of the Cape Wind project plan to build 130 wind turbines that will produce up to 420 megawatts of electricity, enough to provide 75 percent of the power needs for the Cape Cod area. It would be the first offshore wind farm in the United States. The UBC and Cape Wind have already agreed to a project labor agreement for the divers, pile drivers, and millwrights.

The U.S. government has proposed a plan for development of 10 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2020 and 54 gigawatts by 2030, and the

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    UBC Solar Installer Qualification training.

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    Rendering of the $2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, now under construction in Southern California.

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    The Ivanpah station is based on installing huge arrays of focusing mirrors.

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    Wind turbines are gaining ground. These three, just inshore at Atlantic City, were New Jersey's first.

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    With turbines as big as a bus perched high above ground, wind-generation units require massive, carefully built concete foundations.

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    Atlantic City, N.J.'s, Absecon Bay now hosts five units, with an offshore "wind farm" now under study.

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    Offshore breezes are giving new momentum to ocean-based "wind farms" like this one under review off Cape Cod.

UBC is working to take advantage of the opportunities by beefing up training and networking with the industry.

The UBC was the only labor organization to exhibit at the Offshore Windpower Conference put on recently by the American Wind Energy Association. “There were a lot of contractors, consultants, and project managers,” said Dave Borrus, a representative for the UBC’s New England Regional Council who worked the UBC exhibit. “Our message to them is that we’re trained and we’re ready.”

 

LEGISLATIVE POWER 

In Washington, the UBC is letting elected officials know that jobs and economic competitiveness are at stake and that Congress should extend renewable energy tax incentives and other initiatives to develop the industry. Many of these programs, such as a 20-year-old production tax credit for wind, solar, geothermal, and bioenergy production, have been factors in billions of dollars in investment and significant job creation through administrations of both parties.

“America faces a choice today: Are we going to recognize the opportunity and compete in the clean energy race, or will we wave the white flag and watch all of these jobs go to China, Korea, Germany, and other countries,” warned Secretary of Energy Steven Chu at a recent conference.

Read more on how UBC members are meeting construction needs in other energy markets.