As the number of unemployed veterans increases, the government has been looking for new ways to provide jobs to retired military personnel reintegrating into civilian life. With the Department of Defense transitioning their training programs to focus on conservation and energy efficiency, the growing solar industry provides a perfect opportunity for veterans to utilize their technical skills acquired over their years of service. Military veterans working in the field of solar technology continue to play a valuable role in protecting our country by moving us toward energy security.
According to The Solar Foundation’s “Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future” report, there are more than 13,000 veterans working in solar, which is about 9.2 percent of the entire industry. Thirty nine percent work in solar panel installation in areas such as solar design and engineering, site assessment, and technical assistance. Another twenty seven percent are employed in the manufacturing sector, working as line supervisors, production and operations workers, and marketing staff. The remaining minority work in other areas of the industry including distribution and project development.
Trained veterans could be a key to solar PV’s growth over the next few decades and there are a number of programs aimed at including our country’s retired armed forces members in this expanding industry. Solar Energy International (SEI), a leader in renewable energy education, has trained more than 30,000 people through its Solar Professionals Certification Program and provides assistance to interested veterans. With support from Veterans Green Jobs, SEI launched their Veterans and Active Duty Military Training Program in 2001, offering scholarships to retired and active duty military personnel who wish to receive certification in solar technology.
The SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network, which is expected to train 50,000 new solar installers by 2020, is also working to integrate veterans into the solar industry. In partnership with three U.S. military bases, SunShot-supported solar training institutions will train around ninety military personnel this fall. The pilot program, which was announced in September, is part of President Obama’s ongoing plan to advance renewable energy usage in the United States. The lessons learned from the successful completion of this program will provide a model for the Department of Energy to extend solar training to military bases across the country.
As defenders of our nation, most military personnel view climate change and reliance on fossil fuels as threats to national security. Veterans see a career in the solar industry as a way of combatting these threats and continuing service to their country. It’s a great fit because the skills developed through military experience are consistent with those valued in the solar industry such as leadership, teamwork, and critical thinking. However, crippled by high unemployment, many retired armed forces members are struggling to secure jobs upon returning home. Initiatives like those launched by SEI and SunShot have proven to be successful in transitioning veterans into the solar industry and provide an important service to those who risk their lives defending our nation.
To learn more about SEI visit http://www.solarenergy.org/
To learn more about the SunShot Initiative visit http://energy.gov/eere/sunshot/sunshot-initiative