January 6th, 2011

Clean Energy is Filthy, Dirty, Hot, Itchy, Sticky, yet Awesome Work


This is a picture of my hand after a typical day at work. What this picture doesn’t show you it the tiny fibers of insulation that have found there way up my sleeves, and the gobs of duct seal that may or may not have found stuck onto my pants, sweat-shirt, or hair. Installing duct work for geothermal systems may be the cheapest and cleanest way to heat and cool your home, but it is dirty and hard work.

You can hear in peoples’ voices how excited they are about solar power, ‘its the way of the future’ everyone says. I always think about lugging a 50 pound solar panel wearing a 10 pound t-shirt (because its drenched in sweat) across a steeply pitched room. Which is, in 95 degree summer weather actually around 120 because you’re standing on a black, asphalt roof that has been baking in the sun all day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. In fact, I love this stuff. There is a huge satisfaction in using your hands to build something, and being outside is a huge bonus too. That’s the really the cool part of renewable energy. The base of the jobs being created are fundamentally construction jobs with a little tweaking. All distributed generation technologies (solar PV, solar thermal, small wind, and geothermal) are all installed by electricians, carpenters, roofers, drillers, tin workers, and drillers.

The growth of renewable energy will develop our economy from the bottom up, as opposed to lets say, the finance industry. One sales person and an engineer can create enough work for a lot of installers. The fact that our housing infrastructure is so inefficient – we use about double the energy per square foot of a European household – actually means we have a lot of upgrading to do, and that means jobs. That’s not to say finance, management, and investors aren’t needed and won’t be rewarded, but simply that it looks like the middle class is finally going to get some of the action as a new industry grows.

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Chris Williams

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams is the editor of Green Light Distrikt and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring . He has experience in business development, prototyping and new venture research with a focus on geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Chris is an IGSHPA accredited geothermal installer and NABCEP certified solar installer. Chris is focused on solving customer facing issues in the creation and adoption of clean energy technologies and products. Chris has installed over 300kW of solar and tens of geothermal systems. He's invented the PV Pal , developed many trainings at HeatSpring, publishes the NABCEP Study Guide , the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech and has done due diligence research for Urgent VC . Feel free to connect with him @topherwiliams , on Linkedin , or through email about new ventures, collaborating, writing, research or whatever is on your mind.