Erik Davidsen grew up in the 1980s era of Gameboys, Nintendos and Walkmans. He loved to tinker with electronics and thought that one day he’d likely use those skills in his work.
He went on to become a master electrician and is now an 18-year career veteran at Staff Electric, managing the company’s solar installs in the Milwaukee area. Currently, he’s working on projects at Badger Meter and Lakefront Brewery.
Without getting too technical, his job is basically to make all the connections, pathways and current conversions necessary to turn all the energy that the solar panels produce into usable electricity that feeds into the grid or for use on-site.
The Badger Meter project is one of the largest he’s worked on to date — with 2,640 solar panels that produce a lifetime total of over 23.6 million kilowatt-hours. The energy produced will offset significant amounts of electricity that would have otherwise been generated by conventional utilities. Over the course of its lifetime, the project will help avoid 18,000 tons of carbon pollution that would have been emitted by the burning of fossil fuels to make electricity — about the same emissions generated by 38.9 million miles of car travel.
Davidsen estimates that solar makes up about 15-20 percent of his workload. He also works on electrical systems for high-rise office buildings, cold storage facilities, and even the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.
His training in the field started at the Milwaukee Area Technical College — an apprenticeship school focused on preparing students for good jobs in the real world. During the day, he worked as an apprentice at Staff Electric, and took classes at Milwaukee Area Technical College at night. Over the years, he advanced in skills and experience, becoming a journeyman and then a master electrician.
“Being in the trades is an excellent job that will never be outsourced. Having a trade gives you a skill set that will always be in demand. No matter where I go in the country, I know I can find work,” he said.
But Davidsen plans to stay put in Wisconsin. He’s got a good gig at Staff Electric that allows him to work outside (one of the things he likes best about working solar installations) and on a diversity of job sites. No day is like the other, he says.
Plus, his whole family is from Wisconsin. A native Wisconsinite himself — he’s married to another native Wisconsinite and has two teenage kids. He treasures time with his family and summers at their vacation property in Northern Wisconsin.
And while solar isn’t the only type of project he works on, it seems to mean more to him than the others, and not just for being a key part of the economic pie he counts on.
“For our children we want to make sure we can wean ourselves off energy overconsumption from sources like coal or nuclear that can be harmful. Solar is a clean, renewable resource, which is great.”