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Solar Energy and Veterans

Jessica PirroNovember 8, 20191310

In America, the month of November is considered by many the month of thanks. This month, especially on November 11th, we are thankful for all of the veterans who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

The solar power industry is making a difference in those who are currently enlisted, and veterans live.

Military bases are adopting solar panel installations for the many benefits of solar energy. Solar power helps reduce the need for risky transportation of fuel, saves lives, increase national security and save on the overall costs for the military. The solar energy industry is also provided jobs for veterans.

Solar Saves Lives

The supply convoys are easy targets for snipers and IED attacks, which makes transporting fuel a risky task. If hit, a fuel convoy is going to release a cloud of black smoke that can expose survivors for miles. Not to mention the casualties and monetary loss from destroyed equipment and supplies.

A simple solution: reduce military dependence on fuel.

Fuel is needed to power generators, vehicles, and aircraft. While the Army might not be able to eliminate the need for fuel, the technological advances have made it possible to significantly reduce the amount of fuel needed.

With the new advances in solar panels and battery storage technology, making solar-powered systems and has increased the efficiency of solar energy, making solar the preferred source of energy for the military. With fewer convoys that are required to transport fuel across Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, which means that fewer soldiers needed to protect them, and fewer casualties.

An increase in solar energy is also going to reduce the US’ dependence on other countries for fuel in general - meaning less is needed to go to war to defend our access to these resources in the first place.

Solar Reduce Costs

The US is the biggest military spender in the world, spending more than the next seven largest military budgets in the world combined, and making up 37% of the world’s total expenditures, with this year’s estimated spending at $989 billion.

The Department of Defense recognizes a need for greater efficiency of solar energy and cost reduction but is limited in ways that they can do so.

One way that they can cut down on spending is getting a solar panel installation. Solar-powered systems save on the costs of gas and fuel, not to mention the costs that can result in the loss from loss of supplies in attacks. It can save military bases money energy costs, as well.

Solar Increases National Security

Aside from protecting our troops abroad, solar energy also provides greater energy security at home. Solar power helps military bases guard against blackouts in the event of floods, storms, or cyberattacks, which can severely cripple communications and leave them vulnerable.

As other enemy countries grow more technologically advanced, the threat of cyberattacks against our critical infrastructure grows. Russian hackers have been proven capable of breaking into the power grid.

In addition, as the military increases its use of drones for surveillance and combat, control rooms increase their dependence on the electricity grid to stay connected during critical missions. A power outage at a critical moment could cripple the military’s operations.

Threats come both from within and without. A tornado or hurricane could knock out the power or a cyber or terrorist attack could. A major grid failure could easily disable our nation’s defense.

To protect them against outages, the US is adopting more alternative and backup energy sources. Microgrids, wind turbines, solar panels, and battery storage can supply power if the grid fails, both on the military basis and communities throughout the US.

Congress has already mandated the military facilities must get 25% of their energy from sources of renewable energy by 2025. The Department of Defense has a goal to consume 3,000 MW from sources of renewable energy by 2025.

The Department of Energy is funding up to $53 million in new projects to advance solar power technologies for all users, including the military. It will help lower electricity costs and support the growing solar power workforce.

Solar Programs for Vets

Solar power training programs allow veterans to receive training for the practical skills to succeed in the solar energy industry. Listed below are some solar energy programs.

- Solar Ready Vets - The Solar Ready Vets program, originally funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, consists of a 6-week training program for service members on military bases before they are discharged. It is an immersion program where they are taught the basics of solar panel installation, project management, and other industry necessities. The program now runs independently at 10 military bases.

- Troops to Solar - This Grid Alternatives program, was founded in 2015 and is a project funded by a $750,000 grant over the course of a three-year life cycle. The program trains veterans and active duty service members in hands-on solar panel installation experience and utilizes GRID Alternatives’ connections within the industry to advance in their careers. While it is nearing the end of its term, this program provides a model for others to continue to train veterans for jobs in the solar power industry. By the time the program tuns its course, it will have trained 1,000 veterans for solar power jobs.

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