U.S. DOE Launches Five New Solar Ready Vets Training Locations, Announces $10 Million for National Solar Training Programs

Solar Ready Vets Obama
President Obama at Hill Air Force Base in April 2015 announcing the expansion of the Solar Ready Vets program, a joint effort between the Department of Energy and Department of Defense to train active military personnel for careers in the solar energy industry. | White House photo.

Today, the Energy Department announced five additional military bases will join Solar Ready Vets, a solar jobs training program that prepares service members for careers in the solar industry when they leave active duty. The Department is also awarding $10 million to 10 new projects through its Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) funding program, which was created 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 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.”

These solar energy training efforts build on the success of the SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network, which has trained 1,100 certified solar instructors and provided hands-on solar workforce training to more than 30,000 students nationwide through our nation’s community colleges. Today the solar industry is a leader in hiring military veterans—employing nearly 17,000 veterans to date­—and it is committed to employing 50,000 veterans by 2020.

Connecting a Skilled Veteran Workforce with a Growing Solar Industry

The SunShot Initiative’s Solar Ready Vets program trains our nation’s skilled military service members to succeed in the solar energy industry by training them to size and install solar energy systems, safely connect them to the grid, and understand and comply with local building codes. This program, enabled by the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge initiative, allows exiting military personnel to pursue civilian job training, employment skills training, apprenticeships and internships up to 6 months prior to their separation date.

The new training locations and training partners announced today are:

  • Eglin Air Force Base (Florida) with training provider Florida Solar Energy Center
  • Fort Bragg (Army; North Carolina) with training provider Fayetteville Technical Community College
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (Air Force, Army, Navy; New Jersey) with training provider Rowan College at Burlington County
  • Joint Base San Antonio (Air Force, Army; Texas) with training provider Alamo College System’s St. Philip’s College
  • Marine Corps Base Hawaii with training provider Honolulu Community College

Since the program’s launch, approximately 250 graduates have already completed the Solar Ready Vets training program from 14 cohorts at five military bases across the country: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton (California), Fort Carson (Army, Colorado), Naval Station Norfolk (Virginia), Hill Air Force Base (Utah) and Fort Drum (Army, New York).

Training American Workers to Build a Vibrant Workforce

To help meet the President’s goal of training 75,000 solar workers by 2020, the 10 new STEP-funded training projects announced today will advance America’s solar workforce by training technicians for solar careers. One awardee under the STEP program, The Solar Foundation, will serve to support Solar Ready Vets and the five new bases announced today as the national administrator of the training program.

These projects will also focus on providing professionals in related fields like real estate, architecture, and fire and safety with the information they need to help accelerate solar deployment. Broadly, the STEP program is meant to build an efficient, well-trained workforce that is familiar with solar energy in order to help make it easier for Americans to install solar by improving inspection compliance, expediting system permitting, and reducing liability and insurance costs.

The awardees are as follows:

  • Clean Energy States Alliance (Montpelier, VT) will receive $568,000 to provide resources and training for state and local government officials on how to ensure inclusive participation in the solar economy, especially for those with low and moderate incomes and those without solar-friendly roofs, and how to help consumers find and use reputable, competent vendors and contractors.
  • Elevate Energy (Chicago, IL) will receive $445,027 to educate residential real estate agents, appraisers, and related regulatory officials about solar energy systems through web-based, continuing education classes.
  • Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (Knoxville, TN) will receive $1,000,000 to support the education of the next generation of power systems engineers. In partnership with university, utility, and electric industry partners, this project will establish GridEd-West, a distributed energy technology training consortium for the western United States.
  • George Washington University (Washington, DC) will receive $430,727 to develop multimedia solar energy training materials that can be used to train diverse audiences, including real estate agents, financiers, and state regulators and policymakers.
  • Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (Albany, NY) will receive $2,200,000 to train 100,000 code officials, inspectors, and firefighters in solar by facilitating the integration of state-of-the-art solar training into existing professional development platforms.
  • National Conference of State Legislatures (Denver, CO) will receive $950,615 to develop a solar training program for state regulators, legislators, and energy officers using traditional instruction, interactive games and simulations, and peer exchange.
  • North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, Inc. (Clifton Park, NY) will receive $1,119,195 to develop new industry-validated personnel certifications for individuals working in photovoltaic (PV) operations and maintenance and mid-scale PV system design and installation.
  • The Solar Foundation (Washington, DC) will receive $1,947,730 to become the national administrator for the Solar Ready Vets program. The Solar Foundation will work with training institutions at ten military bases to train more than 2,500 transitioning military service members and veterans for jobs in the solar energy industry.
  • Trust for Conservation Innovation (Schenectady, NY) will receive $799,949 to support the development and dissemination of solar reference materials and training for building design professionals.
  • University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL) will receive $1,000,000 to continue the Foundations for Engineering Education for Distributed Energy Resources (FEEDER) consortium under the Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment (GEARED) program, which is aimed at training the next generation of power systems engineers to meet the needs of America’s rapidly changing energy portfolio.

Together, these efforts by the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative help to introduce Americans to the benefits of our nation’s rapidly growing solar energy industry, in addition to access to clean, affordable electricity and career growth opportunities.

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