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May 18, 2010

Apprentices help expand renewable energy in Washington state

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TUMWATER – The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) says a recently completed expansion of a Washington wind farm is a good example of how apprenticeship programs can help develop a skilled workforce for green-energy jobs.

Puget Sound Energy's (PSE) expansion project, at the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility near Ellensburg, was completed using registered apprentices for at least 15 percent of the work. As such, it met the apprentice utilization requirements of Initiative 937, passed in 2006 to encourage the use and expansion of renewable energy and the training of Washington's workforce in green jobs.

"I'm proud to say Washington is a leader in training the next generation of skilled workers in the growing field of renewable energy," said Melinda Nichols, manager of L&I's apprenticeship program, which oversees training standards of registered apprenticeship. "During these tough economic times when many people are out of work, Washington was able to put 25 registered apprentices to work building skills for their future and the future of our state."

The use of apprentices on the Wild Horse expansion project qualifies PSE for a 20 percent renewable energy credit multiplier, which helps PSE meet renewable-energy generation requirements.

PSE presented records to L&I proving registered apprentices were employed during the expansion, and the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council certified that the project met the 15 percent apprentice labor standard.

"It was a high priority for us to hire apprentices and ensure the project was eligible for the energy credit multiplier," said Paul Wiegand, senior vice president of Power Generation for PSE. "This is a great example of how one voter initiative helped a business grow, helped the environment, and helped put apprentices to work."

PSE is the Pacific Northwest's largest utility producer of wind energy. The recent 22-turbine expansion of the Wild Horse wind-power operation boosted the facility's output to 273 megawatts, enough to serve the electricity needs of 70,000 homes. PSE also owns and operates the 157-megawatt Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility in Columbia County.

"It was great for our apprentices because they learned new energy technologies and processes," said Erich Smith, apprenticeship coordinator for Ironworkers Local No. 86. "Erecting 280-foot wind towers was certainly a new experience for these apprentices. They will be well prepared when the next wind turbine project comes along."

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For media information: Selena Davis, L&I, 360-902-6593.

Broadcast version: The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) says a green-energy project was completed using Washington state registered apprentices. Puget Sound Energy has proven registered apprentices were employed for at least 15 percent of the work during a recent expansion at the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility near Ellensburg. The use of apprentices on the project qualifies Puget Sound Energy for a 20 percent renewable energy credit multiplier, which helps it meet renewable-energy generation requirements. Melinda Nichols, manager of L&I's apprenticeship program, says in these tough economic times she is proud Washington is able to put apprentices to work in the growing field of renewable energy.

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Voice of Selena Davis, L&I communications manager: "The Wild Horse expansion project is a great example of Washington state working with businesses to expand renewable energy, while expanding apprenticeship opportunities, and creating a skilled work force."

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