BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Kern County is not only one of the top oil-producing counties in the country but we also generate more than 50 percent of the state’s renewable energy. That’s why energy leaders from the county and across the state gathered Tuesday for the Kern Community College District's Community Economic Mobility: A Focus On Energy and Climate Resilience pre-summit.
Many say Kern County has the best of both worlds. From solar energy to producing oil and to the largest wind farm in the country. That’s what makes the county the energy capital of California and why energy leaders are hoping Kern County is one of the starting places to move energy forward.
Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) Tara Lynn Gray says people know Kern County for oil but they may not know about the renewable energy opportunities in Kern.
“What we really have going on in Kern County is the existence of both the old energy economy and the new emerging energy economy,” she said. “There are almost 40 solar projects planned in Kern County. There’s 150,000 acres dedicated to clean energy already here.”
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory Director Martin Keller agrees and says this notion is about the work Kern has to offer.
“I think this community is ready to go in the parallel approach where we deploy some of this solar and wind at a larger scale, using some of the electricity, perhaps down the road even go to hydrogen. Using the wonderful workforce here in this energy transition to bring everybody along in moving towards the clean energy revolution.”
Bringing those jobs is what Kern Community College District Chancellor Sonya Christian says is the key to holding the pre-summit.
“The reality is we have to look at the future, and the jobs of the future don’t exist right now. So the KCCD is working proactively with our research partners to recognize what the jobs of the future are going to be able to do the workforce development to grow our own talent here in Kern County.”
Gray says it is not about polarizing one energy industry or the other but it's about how we reach California’s climate goal.
“It’s a coming together. It's a meeting in the middle, and it's about solution building. It's about cooperation. It's about creating economic mobility for the residents of these communities here.”
The pre-summit continues Tuesday at the Bakersfield Marriot on Truxtun followed by the California Economic Summit on Thursday and Friday at the Mechanics Bank Convention Center.