Meet the newest members of Colorado’s solar workforce

By Ben Delman on May 17, 2019

Nearly 7,000 Coloradans work in the solar industry, ranking us eighth in the nation. Solar United Neighbors, through the Yampa Valley Solar Co-op, is helping to add more. We’ve partnered with Solar Energy International (SEI) to provide free hands-on solar installer training to four Routt and Moffat County residents.

The trainees bring a diverse array of skills and backgrounds to their training.

Colt Mortensen as he works on a Russian sweat lodge in Idaho.

Craig resident Colt Mortensen has worked for more than 30 years for BLM and the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter. “I’m looking to do something that not only will help people but will help the environment as I approach retirement,” Mortensen said. Though Mortensen isn’t quite ready to retire just yet. He hopes to start his own solar business in the Yampa Valley within the next six years.

Bethani Massey with her two daughters.

Bethani Massey is a new-comer to the area. She “was instantly taken by its beauty and serenity”. Massey currently works at a restaurant in Steamboat Springs. She is excited to join the solar industry to provide a good, steady income for her and her daughters. “I have wanted to pursue solar training and a career in renewable energy for years but haven’t been able to make it happen.” Massey said.

Trainees spent a week in Paonia, Colorado training at SEI’s headquarters. They completed online courses and exams well.

Matt with his wife Sydnie and children Kaydance, Kolbie, and Levi.

Some of the trainees bring related skills to their solar training. Matt Larson of Oak Creek has already spent time on rooftops, working as a satellite installer. “I believe solar power would benefit the Yampa Valley tremendously and help to preserve our irreplaceable environment,” Larson said.

Now that their training has completed, the four participants will support educational and partnership outreach for the Yampa Valley Solar Co-op into the early fall as part of their on-going solar training. They will shadow the solar co-op’s chosen installer as solar goes up on Yampa Valley homes.

Gene Leck-DeLeon.

Gene Leck-DeLeon was born in Craig and grew up in Hayden. He’s returned to the area after 15 years on the East Coast and Texas.

“I think solar power would greatly benefit the Yampa Valley, even more so now than ever before,” Leck-DeLeon said. “Economically, solar design and installation could provide more work in the area, and it would work toward maintaining the environment that we live in.”

The Yampa Valley Solar Co-op is open to homes and businesses in Routt and Moffat Counties through July 1. The co-op is free to join and joining isn’t a commitment to purchase panels. If you would like to join, you can sign up at the co-op’s webpage.

“This program has given me real hope and I am so grateful,” Massey said.