COLUMBUS – As they transition from active duty, growing numbers of veterans are finding a place in the clean-energy field.
According to the Solar Foundation, about 9 percent of workers in the solar industry are veterans, exceeding the percentage of veteran employment in the overall economy.
After serving in Iraq and Kuwait, Matthew O’Brien now is employed as a residential project manager at Third Sun Solar in Ohio, where about 20 percent of the workforce is former military. Veterans have the experience, skills and work ethic needed for renewable-energy jobs,” O’Brien said.
“They’re intelligent, they’re leaders – they’re able to make a move into this field very easily,” he said. “It’s a good fit, and veterans do make a move towards anything that fits their skills.”
The Energy Department is training active-duty military members who are near veteran status for jobs in the solar industry through the Solar Ready Vets program. It currently is operating at four military bases, with plans to expand to 10 more locations.
The Pentagon has identified climate change as a national security threat. Samantha Allen, the Ohio Sierra Club’s conservation program manager who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, explained that solar and other renewable-energy resources are important elements of mitigating climate change as part of the Clean Power Plan.
“To protect our economic and national security, America and Ohio must diversify and look to clean energy,” she said. “Who better to fill these jobs than veterans returning from war who have already fought for our energy independence on the battlefield and have a vested interest in protecting our national security?”
As the nation moves toward cleaner energy sources, O’Brien said he expects the demand for more highly skilled workers to increase. He believes veterans are prime candidates.
“Careers in an alternative-energy field are only growing,” he said, “because as supplies become harder to get in the fossil-fuel industry, it makes alternative energy that much easier of a decision.”
Government estimates predict that solar-industry jobs will grow by more than 20 percent this year.
Information on the Solar Ready Vets program is online at energy.gov.