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Clean energy investments will create millions of manufacturing jobs and whole new industries
Alternative Energy Contractor | Sutter Creek, Calif.
Kevin Conklin has been working in the green sector since he was 10 years old. He held a flashlight while his father installed solar and wind power systems. At 12, he scaled a wind turbine for the first time.
For Kevin Conklin, helping people and businesses harness wind and solar power is both a job and lifelong calling. Courtesy: Renewable Technologies Inc.
"The guy at the top needed a wrench and didn't want to climb back down," he explains.
By the time he was 17, Conklin was a foreman for his father's alternative energy company, overseeing the construction of 20-kilowatt wind turbines.
Darryl Conklin, Kevin's father, got the idea to start a renewable energy company while flying over burning oil fields during Operation Desert Storm. When he retired from the Air Force and his job at a Chevron refinery in 1994, he relocated his family to a remote part of California, about 45 minutes east of Sacramento.
The area wasn't served by a utility company, so he installed a wind turbine and a photovoltaic array. Then he did the same for his nearest neighbor, about two miles away by dirt road. That was the start of Renewable Technologies Inc.
Back then, "sustainable resources" and "green jobs" hadn't entered common parlance. "People thought we were a bunch of wild hippies or tree huggers or mad scientists," says Kevin Conklin, now 24. "They didn't think it would work, even though the technology had been orbiting around the planet for 30 years. The demand really wasn't there because people weren't being hurt by their (utility) bills yet."
Things are different now. Today the company has its headquarters in tiny Sutter Creek, Calif., and has installed more than 1,000 photovoltaic systems. Business has been helped by increased energy costs, advances in technology, government subsidies for alternative-energy systems -- and word of mouth.
"We don't really advertise that much," Kevin Conklin says. "We have enough customers talking to customers."
Their customer base includes everything from homes and office buildings to wineries and wastewater treatment facilities. "I've done work in people's RVs in the middle of the woods and at wineries that are some of the most beautiful pieces of property I've ever seen," Conklin says.
Sewage treatment facilities double as energy producers when Renewable Technologies plunks solar panels on otherwise unusable acres of land. "There's talk of us putting them on pontoons and floating them. The sky's the limit. You can be as creative as you want."
Conklin is pursuing a construction management degree at Folsom Lake College in the hopes of becoming a project manager for the family business. "This is what I'm going to do with my life," he says. "There's a lot of electricity that needs to be produced."
last revised 6/11/2009
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