Military personnel now have the chance to enroll in a comprehensive training program that can prepare them for a wide variety of jobs in the solar industry. The program, Solar Ready Vets, is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative and will be spearheaded by The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit.
“The Solar Foundation is known for its solar jobs research, local government technical assistance, and national education programs,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “We are honored to now have an opportunity to lead a national program to prepare transitioning military personnel for solar careers.”
According to TSF’s National Solar Jobs Census, veterans represented 8.1 percent of the overall U.S. solar workforce in 2015. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), one of several partners working with Solar Ready Vets, has set a goal of employing 50,000 veterans by 2020. “[W]e are determined to hit that goal,” said Rhone Resch, President and Chief Executive Officer of SEIA. “Programs like Solar Ready Vets help set us on course to put thousands of these brave Americans to work through better training and a clearer path to a great job in the solar industry.”
Fellow partners in the SRV program include the Florida Solar Energy Center, Solar Energy International, the Truman Center for National Policy and retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Steven DePalmer.
“The solar industry offers veterans a chance to be part of a team, building systems where no two projects are alike,” said Gen. DePalmer. “And as the solar industry continues to expand, the leadership opportunities for veterans will only increase.”
Connecting Veteran Graduates to Real Job Opportunities in Solar
The Solar Ready Vet program offers service members more than just instruction in how to install solar panels, it provides an exhaustive education in solar energy, how solar financing works and what states boast the strongest solar markets. Job training encompasses not only installation but also logistics and management careers.
Tenley Dalstrom is the Program Director for The Solar Foundation and has been working with employers to connect SRV graduates with solar jobs that align with their areas of interest. She has also held conversations with veterans on their experience with the program.
“I think the program actually exceeded their expectations in giving them more robust training than they originally thought,” she told Planet Experts. “The program was designed with input from employers. Trainers in the solar industry made sure that the curriculum follows NABCEP ]North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners]. The curriculum also ensures that they get either OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 training.”
Through hands-on experience and labs, students learn the fundamentals of photovoltaic systems; the core processes of solar PV projects, including site analysis, system design, system assembly and maintenance, and project finances; safety issues unique to solar; and how to plan a successful transition into the solar field. By the completion of the program, vets are thus left with both a working knowledge of solar mechanics and a broad awareness of the industry itself.
“We’ve had a lot of positive reaction from military personnel about this program,” said Tenley. “The exiting service members see that solar is a growing industry, and it also gives them an opportunity to continue serving the country. Solar adds to our nation’s energy security. It’s homefront service.”
Ten military bases are currently running Solar Ready Vet pilot programs, including Camp Pendleton, Fort Carson, Naval Station Norfolk, Fort Drum, Hill Air Force Base, Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst, Joint Base San Antonio, Eglin Air Force Base, Fort Bragg and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The goal is to one day scale the program to the national level.
On Tuesday, the DOE announced that it will award $10 million to 10 new projects in its Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) funding program, which was established “to help meet the solar industry’s growing demand for well-qualified, highly skilled installers and other industry-related professionals.”
“Jobs in the dynamic solar energy sector have grown more than 20 percent per year for the past several years,” said Energy Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. “At DOE, we are committed to training the solar workforce of the future through our partnership with the Department of Defense, the solar industry, and community colleges around the country.”