Stanwood man hopes solar power pays off

STANWOOD — After working in two of Snohomish County’s prominent industries, Ron Fox is out of a job again.

But Fox believes the sun will come out tomorrow and along with it will come a job working with solar panels. With both federal and state incentives for renewable energy efforts, Fox’s hopes of landing a green job are well on their way to becoming a reality.

After 13 years at the Boeing Co., Fox lost his job as a wing line mechanic on the 747 when the aerospace giant laid off thousands of workers following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Late last year, the Stanwood resident was out of work again when Meridian Yachts of Arlington closed its doors. Fox had been employed with the boat-builder for more than three years.

“It’s not boating season,” he said.

Fox has been taking advantage of the employment services provided through WorkSource, taking job-hunting and job-interviewing classes. And he wouldn’t mind getting some retraining, such as enrolling in a six-month welding program. He has seen few jobs that pay close to what he’s used to making.

But Fox’s true career interest can be found in his own back yard. That’s where his $49,000 solar panel project is. Fox had the solar panels installed prior to losing his job, and he became intrigued with breaking into the solar industry.

“I think the solar industry is really going to be booming,” Fox said.

Included into the $787 billion stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama are roughly $15 billion in tax credits for the renewable energy industry. Washington state received $120 million from Congress, with nearly $61 million specifically tagged for energy efficiency programs and the development of renewable energy sources.

Businesses can get up to 30 percent of the panels’ cost rebated, and individuals also can collect a rebate, though not as substantial.

Fox says his solar panel system, which took two weeks to install, will pay for itself in five to six years. And solar panels will increase the value of Fox’s home — or most homes for that matter.

“It’s an investment,” he said.

Fox has been using his contacts with the solar panel industry to hunt for a job, keeping in touch with American Community Energy, a Seattle-based company. When the stimulus money filters down to the solar industry, Fox believes he’ll have luck getting a full-time position.

In the meantime, Fox is looking forward to two contract solar panel jobs he’s lined up with American Community Energy in Monroe and Edmonds.

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