Unless you live under a rock, you've experienced the Canadian wildfire season this summer. And, unfortunately, the poor air from Canada is now circulating as far as Europe, too. Canada has reported an incredible 2,981 wildfires so far this season. As I write the Recruiter's Outlook for June, there are 483 known wildfires currently burning. Once again, air quality warnings have been issued that find me silencing local weather alerts and closing windows.
I live in New Jersey - some 500 miles from the source of the Quebec fires (or, for my Canadian friends, about 800 kilometers) - yet, in early June, it felt like the entire northeast and mid-atlantic region of the US was on fire. And smelled that way, too, even in my own backyard. I trust you've all seen the apocalyptic images of smoke and fog-filled New York City. At the height of the risk for about two days, every outdoor activity you can think of was cancelled in New Jersey. Let's hope the firefighters from Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa can dampen some of these dangers. And safely!
But why are we experiencing the largest amount of Canadian wildfires in modern history? As I've just learned, the cause of wildfires can vary from province to province. While lighting strikes and human errors are clearly to blame for some fires, so is climate change. Canada saw a really dry spring with regional droughts, and stretches of unseasonably hot weather, making the forests' temperatures rise and become more susceptible to uncontrollable spreading.
How Effective Can Solar Be With Relentless Wildfire Smoke?
The wildfires had me start questioning the effectiveness of a solar power plant when the sky is blanketed in smoke. With some research, I read that, as with a cloudy day, smoke can reduce generation by 25-60% depending on how dense the smoke is. If you include fire soot and ash, the statistics are even worse. Read this article to see the changes from early June in the northeast and midwest ISO's.
This news leads to an important philosophical question: if climate change continues to get worse and wildfire season gets longer and wilder, how bankable will solar projects be for financiers? Will energy modelers need to account for wildfire reductions in their calculations?
Texas Saved by Solar
I'll move on to more positive news about solar. As I wrote in April's Recruiter's Outlook, the boom in Texas renewable energy and, subsequently, job creation, is the saving grace to the current heat wave that Texans are enduring. The heatwave in Texas pushed electricity demand to an all time high; fortunately ERCOT's power generation is now 20% solar and has positively affected the grid's reliability compared to just a few short years ago. Recent permitting hiccups aside, ERCOT is turning into a model of electricity diversification. Let's hope they can stay out of their own way.
Climate Change Job Creation!
Thirteen years ago next month, I incorporated EnergeiaWorks. Best decision of my life! Admittedly, with a huge learning curve ahead of me, I launched a recruiting agency solely dedicated to renewable energy. My thought process at the time was, if I can help climate reduction organizations find top talent, then I'm doing my part to combat climate change in this world. Thirteen years later, I know this is true!
A lot has changed since I started EnergeiaWorks. For starters, they don't use the phrase "alternative energy" anymore to describe power plants made from wind and solar. Most notably, the cost of renewable energy has dropped by 75%, which has attracted homeowners, investors, and electric utilities.
Earlier this month, I was interviewed by SaveOnEnergy.com to talk about renewable energy careers, talent shortages, and workforce development in the renewable energy job market. And just two days ago, the US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, helped drive the 2023 US Energy and Employment Report (USEER). As noted by Kelsey Misbrener in this Solar Power World article, clean energy jobs increased in every state in 2022! The US added 114,000 jobs last year and we'll look for this number to grow substantially as domestic manufacturing takes hold in the US.
If you're looking to hire top talent in manufacturing, project development, finance, construction, operations, or energy asset management professionals, reach out to us today.
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