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DOE Helps Military Vets, Native Americans Go Solar


The Department of Energy is zooming in on U.S. military veterans and Native Americans as the Obama administration continues its effort to spur green job creation and deployment of solar energy.

On March 17, DOE announced it would offer a free public webinar about hiring veterans for solar energy jobs as part of the president's SunShot Initiative. On March 25, the DOE Office of Indian Energy and the Western Area Power Administration will sponsor a live webinar on tribal energy development operation and management best practices.

DOE followed up on these with a March 18 announcement that it had selected 11 Native American tribal communities to deploy energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. In total, DOE will invest nearly $6 million “to accelerate the implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies on tribal lands.” It's expected that the DOE's $6 million will be supplemented by another $7.5 million in cost share by the 11 Native American tribes.

Vets into solar

Numbering nearly 17,000, U.S. military veterans represent almost 10 percent of the nearly 174,000 Americans employed in the U.S. solar energy industry. And the Obama administration is working to see that figure increase. Five leading U.S. solar energy companies – SolarCity, Vivint Solar, Sunrun, SunEdison and SunPower – pledged to interview exiting military vets that graduate from a DOE solar job training pilot program.

A first class of U.S. Marines recently graduated from the pilot phase of the SunShot Initiative's solar industry jobs training program for U.S. military vets at Camp Pendleton, California. As the Energy Department explains, the groundbreaking program prepares “service members for careers in the solar industry as solar photovoltaic system installers, sales representatives, system inspectors and other solar-related opportunities.”

DOE expects 200 military vets will graduate and be well-equipped to make the transition to civilian life by landing jobs in the solar energy industry over the course of the program's pilot phase. In addition to Camp Pendleton, pilot-phase training programs at Fort Carson, Nevada, and Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, are scheduled to begin this spring.

The Energy Department is reinforcing its veterans' solar energy training program with free webinars and other public outreach initiatives. On March 18, DOE co-sponsored “Call to Action! Hire Skilled Veterans Today!.” In addition to discussing “the federal government's efforts to promote the hiring of U.S. vets in the solar workforce, participants learned about vets entering the private sector, best practices in company recruiting and retention of vets, how the post-9/11 GI Bill can aid in the hiring process, and other available federal resources,” the Energy Department explains.

Renewable energy and Native Americans

On March 25, DOE will present a live webinar entitled, “Tribal Energy Development Operation and Management Best Practices.” The latest public outreach effort in its Tribal Renewable Energy Webinar Series, “attendees will learn the challenges and benefits of developing a tribal strategic energy plan, proven methods for fostering and growing management capabilities, and ways to ensure tribal staff and council members have access to key information in order to serve as resources for tribal leaders.”

One day after announcing the webinar, the Energy Department said it would invest $6 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across a selected group of 11 Native American tribes, including Alaska Native villages. Cost-sharing on the part of the tribes is expected to bring the total value of the projects to $13.5 million.

“The Energy Department is committed to helping Native American tribes develop clean, affordable and reliable energy options,” Kathleen Hogan, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency at the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, was quoted in a press release.

Some $41.8 million has been invested in clean energy projects on Native American tribal lands via the the DOE's Tribal Energy Program, in partnership with the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, since 2002. “By harnessing America’s clean energy on tribal lands, tribes across the country can cut energy bills, spur economic development and advance energy solutions in their local communities.”

A complete list and summary of the Native American tribes and projects is included in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's press release.

*Image credits: 1), 2) U.S. DOE; 3) Bureau of Indian Affairs

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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