Creating Solar Jobs

In February 1978, the Mid-Peninsula Conversion Project (MPCP) in Mountain View, California — later called the Center for Economic Conversion (CEC) — researched the feasibility of converting military industry in Santa Clara Valley to production of renewable energy equipment. MPCP looked specifically at the prospects for converting the jobs at the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company (LMSC) factory in Sunnyvale to jobs producing solar water heaters, passive solar space heating systems, photovoltaic solar cells, and wind turbines. At the time, Lockheed produced missiles for the Trident submarine under federal government contract. The workers at the plant were members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union.

This project was inspired by four main events: (1) the end of the Vietnam War and the reduction in the size of the United States military budget; (2) the 1973–74 OPEC oil embargo which led to skyrocketing gasoline costs and a surge of interest in solar and other renewable energy sources; (3) the effort of the workers at Lucas Aerospace in Britain who had just undertaken an extensive evaluation of job skills and alternative production possibilities; and (4) the efforts of a variety of community organizing groups that had recently collaborated with government and businesses to create good jobs at livable wages.

After ten months of research and dozens of interviews with military contractors, trade unionists, solar business people, and community activists, MPCP produced an 80-page report in November 1978:

“Creating Solar Jobs: Options for Military Workers and Communities” (8 MB pdf file)

The report was written by Robert DeGrasse Jr., Alan Bernstein, David McFadden, Randy Schutt, Natalie Shiras, and Emerson Street and produced by the Mid-Peninsula Conversion Project (later the Center for Economic Conversion), Mountain View, CA in 1978.

Though it is now several decades old, the motivations for this work remain vibrant and the methodology continues to provide a useful model. Many of the suggested policy options are still viable and compelling.

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