By Liliana Napoleon
“It was the chance of a lifetime,” said Christina Bethke, one of the 12 Molokaʻi residents who are now qualified to work as clean energy technicians. “I lived off the grid my whole life,” explained Bethke who was born and raised on homestead land. “Solar was my passion for decades now.”
Bethke and the other Molokaʻi students just finished a four-month, fully funded intro to photovoltaic training course put on by the Hoʻahu Energy Cooperative Molokaʻi (HECM). The training was a hybrid of curriculum-based and hands-on learning, intended to educate both in life skills and job opportunities, allowing graduates to transition from a “typical on-grid lifestyle” to an “energy farming lifestyle.”
Graduates of the program are now able to install rooftop solar, build micro and nano grids, and work with on-island renewable energy companies.
This is the second cohort of clean energy technicians that HECM has graduated. The course was taught by Molokaʻi’s Todd Yamashita, and supported by Project Assistant Leimana Ritte-Camara, as well as the HECM board members. The students ranged greatly in age, from 17 to 72, with the group being female dominated with a high influx of homesteaders.
This gender breakdown makes sense because in the dynamic of the homestead lots, a great portion are leases that are being held by females and the program is targeted at specifically bringing the training to homesteaders on Molokaʻi.
Bethke described how solar could make a big difference quickly, especially for families who haven’t had the luxury of consistent electricity.
“The majority of my family still live on homestead and off grid,” said Bethke. “Solar has been very important to us.”
“Having a kid without electric is really rough…but we make do, we’re tough,” Bethke added. Even just the act of turning on a light switch, “no one really knows the amount of gratitude I have for that.”
Bethke explained that they recently completed a 24-volt rooftop solar installation at the Camara’s homestead, which can run big electronics, like a refrigerator, all day. “To have something on a homestead run 24 hours is unheard of,” she said.
Now, Bethke is looking at taking her training into the growing clean energy job market.
“Get your foot in the door now before it really booms,” she said.
To learn about future clean energy technician training courses, Molokaʻi community members are encouraged to email email@example.com.
Liliana Napoleon, M.B.A., is Hoʻahu Energy Cooperative Molokaʻi’s training and workforce developer.