Solar job training courtesy of US Department of Defense.

Solar Jobs Course For Military Vets Comes With Full Scholarship

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The nonprofit career education organization Solar Energy International (SEI) has taken note of the surging interest in solar jobs among military veterans, and it has come up with a scholarship plan to help both veterans and active duty military jump-start new careers in the solar industry. The program is further evidence that the creation of a culture of energy awareness in the Defense Department is having a direct impact on service members and their home communities, and that’s something to keep in mind as the battle over the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline heats up.

SEI offers solar job certification scholarship
Solar job training courtesy of US Department of Defense.

Solar Jobs And Military Renewable Energy

Earlier this month SEI marked a milestone of more than 30,000 alumni since it began offering solar jobs certification and training in 1991, and it has been expanding its outreach into new areas as the solar industry grows.

The recent uptick in interest about SEI’s courses among service members has a strong correlation with the Defense Department’s aggressive pursuit of renewable energy for its facilities under the Obama Administration, including solar as well as wind, geothermal, biofuels and even landfill gas.

Part of that interest is due to direct partnership between DoD and SEI on active duty military solar training projects.

More broadly, the various branches of the Armed Services have begun to transition their training and readiness programs to focus on energy awareness, which includes conservation and energy efficiency as well as renewable energy technology.

The new focus on renewable energy technology extends far beyond domestic and permanent overseas facilities. It also includes forward operating bases in war zones, as well as portable, renewable energy on-the-go in field operations and combat.

The need to create an energy awareness platform for deploying new technology effectively is best demonstrated by the Army’s new “The Power Is In Your Hands” energy awareness initiative, which notes that sustaining a Soldier in today’s battlefield takes more than 20 gallons of fuel per day, compared to two or less in World War II.

Private sector companies are already taking note that military veterans can serve as powerful “green ambassadors” for introducing renewable energy technology to civilian communities, particularly in the solar industry, and the Army’s Net Zero program was designed in part to serve as a role model and best practices test bed for its host communities.

For the record, let’s also note that military training also dovetails with many of the skills that come into play for private sector jobs in the wind industry as well as solar power.

Scholarships For Solar Jobs Certification

SEI’s scholarship offer extends to both active duty and military veterans. It consists of a full ride on the organization’s PV101 Online course, which is the first in its Solar Professionals Certificate Program.

The PV101 course can also lead to a train-the-trainers path for active duty military trainers and program managers, which SEI describes as the “deepest level of training in the industry.” That program is available to active duty military trainers who are involved in introducing solar technology to their facilities.

To be eligible for the scholarship, you must be accepted into the certificate program and have a valid DD Form 214, or current Military ID Card for active duty.

Veterans And Renewable Energy

CleanTechnica has been tracking the growing disconnect between the continued fossil fuel dependency advocated by certain members of Congress (round up the usual suspects), and the sustainable energy policies that the Department of Defense has been pursuing as a matter of national security.

That disconnect has spurred growing activism among military veterans, one recent example being an all-out (and successful) effort to extend the federal production tax credit for wind power, spearheaded by the energy security organization The Truman Project.

The Truman Project is also behind a documentary called “The Burden,” which features both active duty and military veterans who lay out the consequences of oil dependency  in terms of reduced force effectiveness, and also in terms of troop death and injury related to fuel transportation. The “burden” in the title refers not only to a drag on military operations but also on the devastating ripple effect of these casualties on their home communities.

In that context, the growth of renewable energy career paths for service members, like those provided by SEI, make a moot point out of the jobs-vs-environment argument that has been used for generations to leverage fossil energy projects that destroy communities and harm public health.

Without the jobs angle, it’s difficult to make any kind of logical argument for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is designed to bring diluted tar sands oil from Canada down to Gulf Coast refineries, for the export market.

In addition to the unique oil spill impacts of tar sands oil, tar sands refining has already begun to leave the US to deal with mountains of petroleum coke (aka petcoke), a coal-like substance with a high sulfur content. The petcoke storage problem exposes local communities to health impacts, and without sufficient pollution controls it can’t be burned without undermining President Obama’s climate policy goals.

Because it crosses an international boundary, construction of the Keystone pipeline requires approval from the Obama Administration, so look for more action from the military community as the approval process winds its way toward a final decision.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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