The U.S. Senate’s recent passage of a bipartisan infrastructure deal was an important first step toward growing our economy. But many of the most important provisions, particularly those that would enable more renewable energy, are still up for debate in this year’s budget bill. As the operations manager for EDP Renewables’ Sun Streams Solar Park outside of Phoenix, I get a first-hand look at how renewable energy is helping our state every day and the benefits that are possible if we continue to grow this industry.
Let’s start with the jobs. Renewable energy jobs are growing in Arizona, and they pay nearly 15% higher than the statewide median wage. There are hundreds of opportunities during the construction phase of a major project like Sun Streams, and each project employs full-time technicians to handle operations and maintenance once the site is up and running. Many of the technicians I work with at Sun Streams are military veterans. The renewable energy sector has become a great landing spot for veterans who developed helpful technical or mechanical skills during their military service.
Renewable energy projects also provide other direct economic benefits to Arizona communities. Projects operating in the state will pay more than $30 million in property, state and local taxes this year alone. We are proud to contribute to the tax base, which helps fund schools and emergency services.
We also look for other ways to make a positive impact in the communities where we live and work, whether it’s contributing to local food banks during the Covid pandemic or establishing an emergency fund for area schools that helps pay for things like backpacks, coats and uniforms. I also love hosting students for educational tours and encouraging young people who may not have thought about renewables as a career option to take advantage of STEM programs. Renewable energy jobs are open to everybody, and I am thrilled to see the sector making significant strides when it comes to diversity.
The environmental benefits of renewable energy are always at the top of my mind as well. Every day at work, I see rows of solar panels producing affordable clean energy for our communities. As a mother, I want to leave a cleaner planet for our children, their children, and generations to come. If there is one thing I would like the public to know about the renewable energy industry, it’s that we are doing this work because it helps everyone.
That’s why I’m hopeful that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and other Arizona leaders support clean energy. Renewable energy is ready today and is creating the jobs of the future – it’s a great time for all Arizonans to get on board!
Natalie Currie works for EDP Renewables North America as an operations manager at Sun Streams Solar Park in Maricopa County.