THE BLOG
11/11/2014 12:01 pm ET Updated Jan 11, 2015

Opening Opportunities for Veterans, Renewable Industry Looks to Train a Clean Tech "Force"

More than just a few good men -- and women -- are looking to shift careers into renewable energy. This Veterans Day, let's salute those who served in uniform by adding to their skills with additional tools to build a successful post-service career.

As thousands return home from their duties here and overseas, they are seeking professions that are fulfilling, high value and allow them more tools to take care of themselves and their families. It's logical that veterans prefer stable jobs with a future to help transition to a well-earned domestic life. As demand for clean tech workers rises and the need for renewable energy workers expands across the country an increasing number of veterans are seeking highly profitable skills with views for a place in the rapidly growing renewable industry.

Clean energy is one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy, and that means thousands of good jobs are being created across the country. Recently, many states are already reporting renewable energy record job numbers because America's renewable energy project deployment is booming.

Fact is, 40 percent of all new additions in energy capacity in 2014 have come from renewable energy. As dozens of new projects come online every month, each one necessitates an army of engineers, operations specialists, manufacturers and construction workers. Not coincidentally, a growing number of these workers initially gained their skills while in the military -- many at the existing military renewable energy installations.

The Department of Defense now has over 500 fixed installations worldwide, and projects have continued to grow ever since DOD opened 16 million acres of land for renewable energy development in 2012. These installations require trained personnel to help manage and maintain its functions, making these individuals "ready-made" for similar roles in the private sector.

SolarWorld -- the nation's largest solar manufacturer -- has even started to deliberately seek military veterans to put their proven skills to use. Employers prefer hiring veterans because they're already equipped with the skillsets they're looking for. And more importantly, their work ethic and experience with leadership afford them the ability to handle projects well. That's why when SolarWorld expands their Oregon facility in Hillsboro, they'll need 200 new workers to meet a $10 million extension to the plant. They're hoping to fill their ranks with veterans.

And so would many other clean energy employers including the incredibly-fast growing number of new, veteran-owned renewable energy small businesses like Inland Industrial .

To help meet the demand for a growing market in renewables, many colleges and universities are now running accelerated programs to help veterans get the certifications needed to install renewable technologies. Additionally, the White House launched a new initiative to train veterans as experts in solar instillations. In a September announcement, the administration said the U.S. is planning to train 50,000 veterans to install solar panels in the next six years.

While this is good news, such initiatives are in fact just preparatory. The United States owes these women and men even broader congressional support through training programs in clean jobs. As a new Congress voices their commitment to both veterans and job creation, sweeping bipartisan legislation ought to be passed to boost the clean energy workforce and give our veterans the kind of jobs they merit. Helping those who protected our freedoms find meaningful work should be one of our Nation's highest priorities. Such action isn't only good for our vets; it comes with significant economic benefits too. Even more opportunities for veterans in this fast growing industry means a much needed boost to our job creators and the economy.

Our veterans are true patriots dedicated to serving our Nation. On Veterans Day -- and everyday -- we ought to do all we can to support them in their post-military careers, as we continue to build a more prosperous and renewable America.

Michael Brower, a retired Naval Officer and Aviator in the U.S. Navy, is the President and CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy