Why are so many veterans serving in the solar industry?


Liz Perez’s dad served in the first Gulf War. And after she enlisted in the Navy and found herself in the second one, “it made me ask a lot of questions about why we were here in the Gulf again.”

In her role as a logistics officer, she bought a lot of fuel. She saw air conditioning units in the desert powered by gas-guzzling generators. “When I got back in 2006,” she said, “I knew something needed to change and I wanted to be part of the solution.”

Like an increasing number of veterans, she got into solar power. In fact, veterans make up 9.2 percent of the almost 143,000-member workforce, compared to their 7.6 percent of the workforce nationwide, according to a report released last month by the Truman Project’s Operation Free and the Solar Foundation.

Federal energy policy drives U.S. solar growth

The U.S. solar industry has grown dramatically across the country in recent years, creating tens of thousands of new jobs along the way. The Solar Energy Industries Association 2013 year-end statistics show that the U.S. installed 4,751 MW of solar PV in 2013, up 41 percent over 2012 and nearly 15 times the amount installed in 2008. Twenty-nine percent of all new electricity generation capacity added this year in the U.S. came from solar — with seven states getting 100 percent of their new generation from solar.

This strong industry growth is a direct result of a federal policy known as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), one of the most important policy mechanisms to support the deployment of solar energy in the U.S. The ITC works by providing a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties. The long-term stability of the ITC is a key policy tenet that NRDC and a wide-ranging group of industry, labor and investor voices successfully advocated for in 2008. It has provided business certainty to project developers and investors that has in turn scaled up the industry and reduced costs to make solar a competitive energy supply option for utilities, consumers and “pro-sumers.” We are now six years into the multi-year ITC extension with an expiration date that’s closer than you might think: 2016, or only about two and a half years from now. . .