Veterans Go Solar For Freedom, Security, and Jobs

Original Article: CleanEnergy.org Blog

Today we honor and express our thanks to America’s veterans for their public service and dedication to protecting the United States. Furthermore, we wish to give a special recognition to our veterans who once advanced our nation’s military goals and are now advancing our nation’s domestic goals in the solar industry.

There is a special connection between the military and renewable energy. The military has a long tradition of leveraging technological innovation to maintain a leading edge, and as such is deeply committed to developing renewable energy to boost the nation’s competitiveness. In fact, the military is one of the largest purchasers of renewable energy in the United States. The Department of Defense has established a goal to source 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025, while the Department of the Navy is seeking 50 percent by 2020.

The recent film The Burden revealed how the military regards renewable energy as an immense national security priority. Our troops all over the world are dependent upon fuel for their operations and with conventional fossil fuels such as oil, maintaining supply lines is very costly, takes large amounts of  manpower, and also compromises our service members’ safety. Think of convoys in Iraq or airdropped oil in the mountains of Afghanistan. When the Army calculated the toll of convoys on military troops in a 2009 report, they found that one out of every 24 military convoys resulted in a casualty in Afghanistan and one in 39 convoys resulted in a casualty in Iraq. Half of these convoys were to deliver or secure fuel. Between 2003 and 2007, one of every eight Army soldiers killed in duty in Iraq lost their lives to protect fuel convoys. In addition to the lives lost, the cost to obtain and protect oil around the world is very high: the film notes that $85 billion is spent annually, about 17 percent of the Defense Department’s total budget, on protecting oil and shipping chokepoints such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal.

The strategic advantage for our troops that can be gained by generating power from the sun or wind is clear, but their benefits don’t stop at the border. In recent years, the solar industry has welcomed home troops, who have high value skills, with good jobs in a quickly growing industry. A report from earlier this year, Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Future, explains:

The United States military is one of the premier training and leadership development institutions in the world. Our servicemen and women complete rigorous technical training and often assume leadership roles early in their careers. Veterans bring an invaluable set of skills into the workforce and are well suited for careers in business management and innovative tech industries. For this reason, veterans make ideal candidates for employment in the rapidly growing solar industry – which to continue expanding, will require access to a highly skilled workforce and recruitment of talented business leaders.

The report also shares that as of 2013, more than 13,000 veterans work in the solar industry, representing nearly 10 percent of the solar workforce–a higher percentage than most industries. In order to help place additional veterans in the solar industry, the Department of Defense and Department of Energy have launched the Solar Ready Vets program.