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Support our troops: while Keystone fans obsess over 35 oil jobs, 120 solar jobs are already waiting for military veterans in a new solar training program.

Clean Power

120 Solar Jobs For Veterans Vs. 35 Keystone XL Pipeline Jobs

Support our troops: while Keystone fans obsess over 35 oil jobs, 120 solar jobs are already waiting for military veterans in a new solar training program.

Five leading US companies have up to 120 solar jobs waiting for veterans under a pilot program aimed at transitioning members of the US military into the solar industry. The first-of-its-kind program just graduated its first class at Camp Pendleton, putting it on track to reach its goal of 200.

The new pilot program is based on the Energy Department’s Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN), which has already trained more that 30,000 students for solar jobs through their local community college.

So… what about the prospects for actually getting a solar job?

US military solar jobs

Solar Jobs By The Numbers

The employment prospects certainly look good by the numbers — for veterans and everybody else, too. The US solar industry has been booming over the past couple of years and it will add an estimated 36,000 more jobs in the next 12 months.

The Energy Department has had an eye on solar jobs since 2009, when the Obama Administration amped up SITN to help ensure a steady stream of job-ready trainees for the growing solar industry.

Here’s how this “trickle-down” jobs engine looks on paper:

US DOE solar jobs training network

The timing was perfect. According to the Energy Department, solar industry employment has climbed 86% since 2010. In 2014 alone, solar employment rose 22%.

Looking ahead to 2030, about 290,000 new solar jobs are projected.

If you’re in the mood to stand up and cheer for all this solar activity, you can give a good chunk of the credit to the Obama Administration’s 2011 SunShot initiative.

SunShot aims at making solar energy just as cheap — and reliable — as fossil fuels, and it’s already doing that in some US markets.

We’ve covered SunShot many times and you can also get a good overview of the program from its director, Minh Le, who recently sat down with our friends over at for an interview.

Among many other insights, Le dropped this hint about even more job creation related to the two-way power flow enabled by distributed solar power systems:

… With distributed generation we’re seeing two-way power flow and that is the revolution if you will that is brought on by technology not dissimilar to how everyone used to get news in the old days with newspapers or telegraphs, now we’re looking at a paradigm shifting transition.

Solar Jobs For Military Veterans

Getting back to the new solar job training pilot program, this would be the first SITN program specific to military veterans, in partnership with the Defense Department’s Skillbridge initiative.

Also new is a directive issued last fall, which enables active duty military to begin job training before they leave the service. That makes for a more seamless transition for job-seekers, while streamlining the employment-ready pipeline for growing industries.

The five companies that have committed to interviewing the graduates for 120 positions are A-listers SolarCity, Vivint Solar, Sunrun, SunEdison, and SunPower, so it’s a pretty good bet that the commitment will bear fruit.

Support Our Troops!

We were just saying that certain federal legislators are weirdly fixated on the Keystone XL project, despite its modest payout in terms of permanent job creation. Just last week, some of these folks skipped the solar jobs photo op at Camp Pendleton to stage a media event to sign Congress’s new Keystone XL pipeline bill.

So, we’re not looking for any of those folks to suddenly become aware that they could rack up a lot more points this year — like, 36,000 more — by supporting job creation in the solar industry.

But, not to worry. There is still a chance for those folks to show their support for our troops and for new jobs, too, because two more solar training course locations will be revving up at Fort Carson and Naval Station Norfolk in the spring.

Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

Photo Credit, top: Lance Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson (cropped — 20 service members graduate from the Solar Energy Training Program at Camp Pendleton).

Image Credit, bottom: Courtesy of US Department of Energy.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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