Empower America, a nonprofit coalition that hires U.S. service veterans to construct solar-energy projects featuring American-made solar products, today announced a partnership with SolarWorld, the largest U.S. solar manufacturer for more than 35 years. Under the partnership, the solar manufacturer will serve as the primary solar-panel and racking supplier for Empower-America-developed solar projects.
Focused in Southern California, the partnership follows a wave of legislation in cities and counties throughout the region that strengthens these governments’ commitments to solar-energy development and job creation for military veterans. The Los Angeles City Council, for example, last week created a new citywide position: veteran affairs coordinator, whose responsibilities will include fostering job opportunities for veterans in renewable energy. In 2012, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the Valor Act, a resolution directing county staff to identify programs and policies to prepare veterans of the armed forces for careers in clean energy. A similar resolution is proposed in San Bernardino County.
“The point of creating a veteran affairs coordinator is to help L.A. veterans get the help they need and the benefits they’ve earned,” said Los Angeles City Council Member Eric Garcetti, who sponsored creation of the position. “The help they need includes creating job opportunities in growing employment fields. I envision the coordinator working with employers, such as Empower America, to create job opportunities in renewable energy to help veterans and our economy in tandem.”
With a mission of creating workforce and economic development opportunities in Southern California, Empower America develops renewable-energy projects for governments and businesses and then recruits, trains and employs local service veterans to build those projects. Under the Empower America partnership with SolarWorld, the solar manufacturer will provide the nonprofit with technical and engineering assistance as well as supply solar panel and racking.
“Empower America’s approach goes beyond local work-force recruiting and training to include developing renewable energy projects that will employ service-veteran trainees,” said Mario Pabon, president and CEO of Empower America. “As with every municipal energy-independence program, the need for project originators, in addition to work-force development, is paramount.”
“With its focus on promoting American jobs, American veterans and American energy independence, Empower America’s mission resonates with SolarWorld, a company that has been manufacturing solar panels in the U.S. since 1975,” said Kevin Kilkelly, president of SolarWorld Americas and a U.S. Army veteran. “Support of military veterans is a priority for us because we envision solar as a way to ease global tensions over scarce resources and thereby avert military conflict. In addition, the U.S. military was an early adopter of solar, and our work force features a strong cohort of veterans.”