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Published on February 26th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


New Report Highlights Growth In Solar Jobs For Veterans

February 26th, 2014 by  

Fresh off the news that President Obama is making noises about withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan, the organizations Operation Free and The Solar Foundation have released a first-of-its-kind report that offers returning veterans the prospect of civilian employment in the US solar industry. In a nutshell, the new report demonstrates that veterans are employed in the solar industry at higher than average rates.

That’s a note of optimism for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, who in this generation have faced a challenging employment picture.

veterans solar jobs

Veterans solar jobs (cropped) courtesy of Vetsinsolar.org.

The new report, Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future, is all the more significant in light of Republican leadership policy pushing for cuts in food stamps and other safety net services on which many veterans and their families depend.

Veterans Solar Jobs On Active Duty…

It’s worth pointing out that more than a few returning veterans already have experience with solar equipment on active duty, as the Department of Defense has been pushing aggressively to transition out of dependency on fossil fuels and into more flexible, logistically sensible forms of power. That includes bases here at home as well as forward operating bases and field maneuvers overseas, too.

Just a few notable examples in the latter category are the portable solar-in-a-suitcase and solar-in-a-backpack kits, a wearable solar powered “talking vest,” and micro-grid systems with solar input.

So in a very real sense, many veterans already have solar jobs.

…And Veterans Solar Jobs At Home

Just as the wind power industry has proved to be a welcoming home for the wide range of skills possessed by returning veterans (see here and here for example), the solar industry has been going above and beyond to offer new pathways to employment.

Since we’ve been pausing here and there to note things, let’s also note that the distributed nature of the solar industry mitigates against the kinds of social, environmental and economic stresses experienced by communities that are hosting fossil fuel “boom” operations.

The more community-friendly nature of solar employment dovetails with the Department of Defense’s emerging environmental stewardship mission, most eloquently expressed by the US Army Net Zero vision (yes, that’s what the Army calls it: a vision).

Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future

The new Operation Free/Solar Foundation report is well worth a read in full (here’s that link again), but here are a few nuggets for now:

…America’s solar industry has grown by 500 percent since 2008, providing more than 13,000 veterans with job opportunities as of November 2013.

…veterans represent nearly ten percent of all solar workers at a time when more than 15 percent of veterans aged 18-24 are currently unemployed.

…growth in the industry is continuing: nearly 62 percent of solar companies that employ veterans plan to add more solar workers within the next 12 months.

In support of the new report, Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) had this to say:

Our servicemen and women have made great sacrifices for our country and it is our responsibility to ensure that when they return home there are high-skill and well-paying jobs available. The solar industry offers our veterans a unique opportunity to use the knowledge they learned serving our country in a rapidly growing sector that is vital to both our national security and economic future.

Okay, so try not to fall asleep waiting for a Republican member of Congress to come out and support veterans solar jobs although when it gets down to governors Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has stepped up in full support of an industry that supports our troops.

Otherwise, seriously, try to think of one Republican member of Congress and if you come up with something drop us a note in the comment thread.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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