Imperial County, California, is a mainly rural area of 4,481 square miles. Its predominantly Hispanic population of some 174,000 is expected to grow by 60% during the coming decade, making it one of the fastest growing areas in the nation. The County is also one of the nationâ€™s most distressed regions, with a high poverty and unemployment rates that are three times the national average, and income levels that lag well behind those found elsewhere in the U.S.
Whereas nationally some 30% of adult Americans hold a bachelor's degree or higher, the figure in Imperial County is less than 12%; and statistics on local college and university attendance, persistence, and graduation suggest that students currently in the educational pipeline will earn the bachelor's degree at an almost identical rate, meaning that the Imperial Valley will experience little improvement in overall educational attainment as additional cohorts move through the educational pipeline and take their place in the workforce. These obstacles to economic and educational development must be addressed, and we believe by far the most promising mechanism to tackle these challenges at present is using the prime resource of the region, renewable energy.