International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Goes Solar

After Steve Strong, president of Solar Design Associates, showed IBEW Local 332’s building committee and the membership how quickly solar is expanding in Europe and Japan, and in the U.S., the membership voted overwhelmingly to install PV on their building. The IBEW sees the importance of distributed on-site electricity generation using renewable energy sources, and the jobs associated with them as an important part of their future.

Their new headquarters building in San Jose, California now features the largest commercial solar power installation west of the Mississippi.

Designated as a Green Building model by the City of San Jose, the PV system generates 55 kilowatts of power, enough to provide for 70-80 percent of the building’s total electrical needs. The use of PV cuts the facility’s utility bill in half and sends power back to the utility grid.

The building is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, home to high tech businesses, R & D labs, microchip manufacturers and biotech facilities. IBEW conducts tours of the building to architects, engineers, contractors, students and others interested in learning how to use solar energy in new or renovated commercial buildings.

Most importantly, IBEW members installed the solar arrays themselves as part of their ongoing training in solar installation.

“As solar gets larger and more difficult and dangerous to install, it moves closer and closer to the electrical industry’s mainstream,” says George Ingham, International Executive Director of the National Photovoltaic Construction Standards & Certification Partnership in Washington DC. “It’s the responsibility of the electrical industry to train workers to do these large installations and the IBEW is in the perfect position to provide the trained electricians.”

IBEW spent $400,000 on installation of the system, 40 percent of which is rebated by the State of California (rebates $4.50 per watt up to 50 percent of the total cost). The building is also design to make use of passive solar power. A large awning, for example, keeps sunlight out on the south side, saving cooling costs. Skylights bring in natural light where it’s needed, reducing the need for artificial lighting.
The main array on the roof consists of PowerGuard tiles, manufactured by PowerLight of Berkeley, CA.

Contact: Terry Tanner, Business Manager, IBEW Local #332:

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