Solar energy is shattering records in the United States. Since President Obama took office, installed solar power has increased 13-fold, topping nearly 16 gigawatts today – enough to power the equivalent of 3.2 million average American homes. As solar energy continues to grow, it is becoming a major source of high-paying American jobs – employing nearly 143,000 full-time professionals last year.
During the next decade, the solar industry is slated to grow even more. The next generation of skilled professionals will be key to the industry’s effort to meet the demand for this clean, renewable energy. That’s why the Energy Department is launching a pilot solar installation training program to provide military veterans who are transitioning out of active duty with the skills needed to become the leaders of the nation’s clean energy economy.
The solar industry has long taken a leading role in hiring veterans, employing more service members than any other sector in the U.S. Building on this tradition, the SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network – which aims to train 50,000 new solar installers in total by 2020, some of who will be veterans – is partnering with up to three military bases to create a veterans solar job training pilot project this fall.
The new training project will connect up to 30 motivated, tech-savvy military personnel at each base with SunShot-supported accredited solar training institutions. Ultimately, lessons learned from this first successful pilot will enable the Energy Department and military branches to expand solar training access to interested veterans, tapping into the Department’s nearly 400 solar training partner institutions nationwide.
Service members in this pilot program will learn how to size and install solar panels, connect electricity to the grid, and interpret and comply with local building codes. This intensive training will prepare them for careers in the solar industry as installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar-related occupations. In fact, three of the largest U.S. solar companies – Vivint Solar, SolarCity, and SunPower – have already committed to interview graduating military trainees for employment, a step that will help place qualified trainees in the high-paying jobs they are suited for.
To date, SunShot’s Solar Instructor Training Network has trained nearly 1,000 certified solar instructors and provided hands-on training to more than 30,000 students nationwide. The Obama administration has a pledge to make it faster, easier, and cheaper for Americans to choose solar energy, and the SunShot program will help to prepare veterans who are needed to meet the demand of a rapidly growing solar industry.
Dan Utech is the Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.