The sun shone bright on a major US military installation in Utah Friday morning as President Barack Obama announced that Hill Air Force Base, which hosts Material Command’s 75th Air Base Wing, would take part in a new “Solar Ready Vets” program. At ten bases, a joint program from the Departments of Energy and Defense will help personnel leaving the military transition to solar careers. It’s part of a major national initiative to train 75,000 workers in solar by 2020.
Project leaders modeled the new program after pilot runs of Solar Ready Vets earlier this year at Camp Pendleton in California, Fort Carson in Colorado, and Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. The former service members will train to size and install solar panels, connect electricity to the grid, and interpret and comply with local building codes. They may then become installers, sales representatives, and system inspectors, or enter other solar-related careers.
As one of DOE’s 16 Climate Action Champions, Salt Lake City leads solar development in Utah. Said Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker: “The solar industry is exploding. The demand exceeds the available workers. People want clean energy. It’s creating jobs. It’s helping us with our air pollution and it’s helping with our energy security. And it saves money over time.”
The President offered his remarks at Hill’s solar array, a PV facility that reduces annual power costs at the base by about $750,000. He tied the solar news to today’s report on overall March job gains of 129,000. Obama noted that since he took office, solar electricity has expanded 20-fold, improving energy independence and creating good jobs as well as cutting climate-damaging carbon pollution.
“The solar industry is actually adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy,” the President said. He characterized the results of the new Solar Ready Vets program as “good, new jobs in the clean-energy economy,” expecting them to help build infrastructure across the country, grow the economy, and sharpen the nation’s international competitiveness.
Obama also announced the administration’s increased efforts to work with states to allow more veterans solar job training under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. His talk followed a meeting with Senator Orrin Hatch, Congressman Rob Bishop, Mayor Becker, and local renewables and community college personnel.