Manistee renewable energy specialist joins federal funding effort in D.C.

March 15, 2019 GMT

A Manistee resident was one of two Michigan-based renewable energy specialists to travel to the nation’s capital last week advocating federal funding for training programs.

Matt Thompson, representing Michigan Utility Workers Union of America Local 124 (UWUA), met with lawmakers in Washington, to seek the federal support the union says will help grow the state’s renewable energy workforce.

“It was a great experience,” Thompson said of the venture. “It was good to promote programs for wind technicians. We wanted to promote programs for our skilled trade.”

Thompson, a Manistee community activist, manages 18 turbines at a 100-megawatt wind park near Ludington, including maintenance and operations at a solar garden and back-up battery supply in the area. He said his union is working on an apprenticeship program.


“We were pleased to bring insights about the impact the industry is having across the state to lawmakers and we have been encouraged by the feedback we received,” Thompson said through a union release. “Lawmakers seem to understand the industry supports communities, good jobs and economic growth, but that we can’t take this growth for granted.”

Thompson and Kristopher Chard of Marlette, which is located in the thumb area of the state, were two of the 170 individuals who participated in last week’s American Wind Energy Association’s annual advocacy day. Together, Thompson, Chard and the others conducted 250 meetings with U.S. House and Senate lawmakers advocating for federal funding for crucial training programs “that will help grow the state’s renewable energy workforce.”

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of Michigan’s wind industry,” said Chard, who is a member of Local 124 of Saginaw. “As the demand for wind energy grows, it’s important that many other veterans like me have access to the necessary training to transition into good, family-supporting jobs the wind industry provides.”

Chard manages 20 of the 81 turbines currently online at a 153-megawatt wind park in Unionville, conducting turbine operations and ongoing maintenance.

According to the union’s statement, Michigan ranks 15th in the nation for installed wind capacity and continues to attract investment in installed capacity and the wind energy supply chain. The union represents more than 50,000 active members employed in the energy, electric, gas, steam, water, telecommunications, generation, and related professional, technical and service industries.

Erin Bzymek, communications director of the UWUA, AFL-CIO, said there are about 10,000 utility workers “across several industries” within the state.