Electrical unions launch net-zero energy training center

Thousands of electrical workers soon will be trained each year as "Total Energy Solution Providers" — skilled in the most advanced energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart grid technologies.

Opening next year, the Net Zero Plus Electrical Training Institute in Los Angeles will train union members in demand response, grid reliability technology, utility-scale battery storage, advanced building and lighting controls and plug load strategies.

The project is a collaboration between International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 and Los Angeles Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association.

"The electrical industry is currently undergoing a revolution due to improved energy efficiency practices, integration of renewable energy on the grid and developing clean technologies," said James Willson, executive director of LA/NECA. "Net Zero Plus is at the center of this revolution and will transform the way buildings use, produce, store and sell energy."

It will be housed in a 142,000-square-foot building being renovated as a net-zero energy facility.

Mostly U.S.-made products will be featured at the "living lab and demonstration center" where emerging technologies will be tested, showcased and even commercialized.

For example, the facility will house smart microgrids of various sizes to demonstrate how existing electrical infrastructure can be integrated with advanced electronics, battery storage, PV solar panels and advanced lighting controls. A utility-scale system will integrate 12 vehicle-charging stations and a high-efficiency chilled water system.

Also integrated into the building will be energy efficient building technologies such as plug load strategies, data management, operable and dimmable skylights, extremely efficient industrial fans, exterior solar shading and high Solar Reflective Index roofing material.

This is the second net-zero energy training center in California for electricians. The much smaller one in San Leandro fosters advanced skills in building automation, lighting control and on-site power generation.

IBEW's interest in advanced energy dates back to 2002, when it added solar PV to its headquarters in San Jose, Calif. — also used to train electricians. The union later added solar systems on IBEW training centers in New York, California, New Jersey and other states to use for training.

These skills will be highly valued in California as the state moves toward net-zero energy for new residential construction by 2020 and commercial construction by 2030.

Top image of power tower by gui jun peng via Shutterstock. This article first appeared at Sustainable Business.com.