May 02, 2017

Honestly, I was thinking about leaving Oregon. Until late last year, I struggled to find a career in my community with a path forward that would provide me with a sustainable income.

quote_steve_cossin_story_featured.jpgI am 28, and for years I worked hard at multiple jobs to make a living. I began to doubt that there were any decent, sustainable wage jobs here in Ashland. What I needed was one good job that would allow me to work towards and plan for my future.

Things began to change when the Nature Center that I worked at installed solar power. The solar project did so much good for so many people. It reduced the carbon footprint of the nature center by 229 tons of carbon per year, effectively making it a net zero facility (making as much energy as it uses). With savings from the utility bill, the center expanded programs, which helps teach more people. And it served as an educational tool for the community. Seeing how a single solar installation could do so much to make the community more sustainable ignited a fresh interest in me for renewable energy.

I got in touch with True South Solar, the company that did the solar installation. As it turned out business was booming, and they were looking for people like me. I've been working for True South for about 7 months now and it's great!

I am working as part of the team helping to install Solar for all kinds of people: Large arrays for vineyards and farmers, firefighters and retirees. A lot of the folks who we install for are simply families who see the benefit in lowering or eliminating their power bills. Many want to play a role in where their power comes from and are tired of the politics - they want to be able to DO something for themselves and for Oregon. For an average family home, taking them from conventional power to solar, the install may only take a single day.

There is also plenty of room for advancement within the solar industry. True South is providing the opportunity for me to gain my LRT (Limited Renewable Energy Technician License) through Rogue Community College. From there I will be able to take on even more responsibility on the job. Some of the guys I work with have been doing this for years. Some as full fledged electricians, and others like myself brand new to the field. I still spend time on the weekends at the nature center helping others to cultivate a love and respect for Oregon's outdoors and wild spaces.

Renewable energy for me has always made great sense. It's one of the reasons why I moved to Oregon. One can gain a certain pride in being able to sustain and provide for one's own needs. Here is the continuous inexcusable resource pouring down on us every day, and even in winter you can continue to gain free power from the light around you. There's no reason in my mind not to invest in something that is just waiting for us.

This job means a lot to me. It’s already had a profound impact on my life. It's the little things really; I can afford to get my groceries from the Ashland Co-op now, and I can now save up for the backpacking gear I've had my eyes on at the Ashland Outdoor Store.

I am proud to live in a place that values clean energy. There are a whole lot of homes and buildings that don't have solar panels up yet - a whole lot of opportunity for people to get good jobs like mine. Anything Oregon can do to help it happen - to invest in these workers and clean energy - needs to be at the top of our list.