As part of Joining Forces, an initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to rally support for U.S. service members, veterans and their families, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) committed to having 50,000 veterans working in solar by 2020. The First Lady shared the news at an event this afternoon in Manassas, Virginia, which was part of a commitment made by several high-growth sectors of the U.S. economy, including solar. Among those attending the event were SEIA Board Chairman Nat Kreamer, who also serves as president and CEO of Clean Power Finance.
“As an industry, we are completely committed to hiring more veterans,” said Kreamer, who is a veteran himself, having served in the Special Forces in Afghanistan where he was awarded the Bronze Star. “Today, America’s solar energy companies already employ twice as many veterans as the average U.S. business. We hire veterans because they come trained, ready and passionate. The solar industry is filled with people who are motivated to build our economy, improve our environment and strengthen our national security.”
As examples of veterans working to build a stronger solar industry in America, Kreamer pointed to Colonel Thom Besch (Ret.) and Captain Michael Baskin (Ret.). Former Army Captain Baskin is working with military bases across the nation to certify service members under guidelines established by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This rigorous program is considered the “gold standard” for PV and solar heating installation certification.
Earlier this year, the first classes of NABCEP-certified veterans graduated and started jobs in solar. Colonel Besch is one of those putting veterans to work in solar. He retired from the U.S. Army, after serving for 30 years, and took a job leading solar installations for a New England solar integrator. After a few years, he started his own company – Veteran Solar Systems (“Still Serving: Country, Community, and You”) – where he sells and installs distributed solar systems in upstate New York.
“We salute the efforts of Colonel Besch, Captain Baskin and many others like them,” Kreamer continued. “Solar, like the military, is not just about the paycheck; it is also about working for something larger than oneself.”
Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, with more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity – enough to power more than 4 million homes – and those numbers are expected to double by the end of 2016.
“We’re very excited about bringing more and more veterans into our ranks, and applaud the efforts of First Lady Obama, Dr. Biden and Joining Forces,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Today, solar employs 174,000 Americans nationwide – including veterans from all branches of the U.S. military – making solar one of the fastest-growing industries in America. This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying dividends for our economy – and our military veterans.”