Replica Solar Training Trough For Desert College

A California community college program set up to train students to work in the solar power sector has unveiled a 120-foot-long solar trough at its desert training center.

The equipment will be used to teach students how to  assemble and maintain large thermal parabolic troughs, the kind used on large-scale solar farms.

solar

image via Solar Millennium

The College of the Desert’s training center is located in Palm Springs, Calif. Many of its students—some previously unemployed construction workers—are hoping to graduate into jobs in the Coachella Valley’s burgeoning solar power industry (which, it should be noted, not everyone in the area is crazy about).

Renewables firm First Solar is building a solar farm nearby. Located near the small town of Desert Center, about 60 miles east of Indio, First Solar’s Desert Sunlight project is expected to generate 440 construction jobs and $336 million in economic impact for Riverside County. The electricity it produces will power about 165,000 homes. The project is set for completion in 2015.

Meanwhile a second solar firm, NextEra, is building another solar farm with 250-megawatt capacity on an area of undeveloped land out in the Sonoran Desert, east of the Coachella Valley.

To date, the College of the Desert has trained nearly 150 students at its Palm Springs facility and, the college says, 44 have gone on to find jobs in the renewables sector.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.