SERVICE TO SOLAR

Veterans in the American Solar Workforce

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Almost 20,000 veterans are employed in the US solar industry, making up approximately 8% of the solar workforce, compared to 6% veteran employment of the overall economy.

On rooftops, in the field, in offices and labs across the country, military service members and veterans apply diverse technical and leadership skills to power the solar industry every day. These roles span manufacturing, engineering, project development, installation, operations, business development, communications, and much more.

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Will Thompson

Co-founder, Nexamp
Boston, MA

Military Background

Will earned his commission through the MIT Army ROTC program while pursuing an Environmental Engineering degree at Tufts University. Will served five years in Germany with the 1st Infantry Division and completed peacekeeping and combat tours in Kosovo and Iraq. He then transferred to the Coast Guard Reserve where he continues to serve today.

Solar Career Pathway

Will found solar through the vision and entrepreneurial spirit of his lifelong friend, and fellow Army veteran, Dan Leary. Dan wrote his MBA thesis on a solar panel installation company while serving in Kuwait in 2005. Two years later, and after working out of his garage for a year installing photovoltaic and solar thermal systems at the homes of friends and family, Dan asked Will to join him full time. Beginning with an offering of turnkey, fully vertically integrated carbon and energy solutions, Nexamp evolved to what it is today – a nationally recognized independent power producer that develops, builds, owns and operates commercial solar plants and offers Community Solar. As Senior Vice President of Nexamp Asset Management Services, Will oversees the Nexamp Energy Center, Operations and Maintenance, and Asset Management functions. These teams work together to ensure peak output and maximum credit generation, for both Nexamp and third party owned infrastructure. While playing a leading role in delivering the energy revolution, Will has also continued to learn – earning his Masters in Homeland Security Studies from Endicott College, and Joint Professional Military Education I certification from the US Naval War College.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

Upon leaving active duty, I don’t mind sharing a sense of being lost and overwhelmed trying to figure out what I wanted to do in the civilian sector. Today, a lot of that ambiguity is readily mitigated through industry and company related information, jobs, and articles available online. Use your network and do your homework. Employers do respect what veterans bring to the table, and the industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds. It is, however, important to recognize that renewable energy jobs remain highly competitive. Figure out where you want to be geographically, and what aspects of renewables and the wide array of various work tasks appeal to you. Set yourself apart during the interview process by expressing your passion for fighting climate change, while articulating how the company’s mission supports the energy revolution.

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Will Carleton

General Manager, DG & Community Solar, Clearway Energy Group
Phoenix, AZ

Military Background

Will Carleton joined the Navy in 2006 as a Nuclear Trained Electrician’s Mate. He completed two years of training as part of the nuclear pipeline (“A” School, Power School, Prototype) where he finished in the top quarter of his class in each of the three sessions. Upon graduation, he was first stationed aboard the fast attack submarine USS City of Corpus Christi based out of Apra Harbor, Guam, and later Pearl Harbor, HI after a change of homeport. Will completed several forward deployed missions aboard the submarine, earning him the honor of being named USS City of Corpus Christi’s Junior Sailor of the Year in 2011, and Junior Sailor of the Year for all of Submarine Squadron 7. He left the Navy in November of 2012, and decided to pursue his next challenge in the solar industry.

Solar Career Pathway

Will’s first job out of the Navy was with First Solar as a Planner/Scheduler within their utility solar O&M group, where he scheduled maintenance for some of the largest plants in operation at the time. A year later, he decided to pursue an Engineering Management degree at Arizona State University. During this time, he was also working full time for Blasdel Energy Services, a small consulting firm where he built out training, safety manuals, operating procedures, and set-up computerized maintenance systems for many of the largest solar companies nationwide. After completing his degree in 2016, he started with NRG Renew (now Clearway Energy Group) as a Regional Manager of Utility, DG, and Community Solar Assets. Two years later, he earned a promotion to General Manager of the entire Distributed Generation & Community Solar O&M team. In this capacity, he oversees 280+ assets totaling 350MWs across 16 states. He leads a team of 21 managers, technicians, operations analysts, and planner schedulers.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

My main piece of advice is to know your worth when you are talking to an employer.  You, as a veteran, have a ton of intangible skills beyond your schooling and specific job experience that are valued in the workforce and not always prevalent in people from other backgrounds.  The military drove home a work ethic, discipline, integrity, character, organization, and many other traits but it also taught us how to be flexible and learn to do tasks where you might not be familiar, a skill that is crucial in the solar industry as it is growing so rapidly. Be sure to convey this with confidence when interviewing.

When interviewing for any job, include, when appropriate, anecdotal evidence of those intangible traits and how they differentiate you from other applicants.  Even if you might not have all the specific technical experience or know-how required for the job, you may still be seen as a top candidate if you can demonstrate the rate at which you can learn and all of the other benefits that you will bring to his or her team as a veteran with unique experiences.

Additionally, do your research on the company and technology.  Analyze where your strengths and weaknesses will be if you get a job with that company.  As a hiring manager, I really like when a candidate has prepared for the interview by doing some upfront research and can communicate how their prior skills will make them a successful member of my team.  I also like to see where candidates understand where they might have weaknesses, in spite of their prior experiences.  I want to work with people that are humble enough to admit when they don’t know something and are smart enough to be able to ask for help.

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Ken Young

Chief Operating Officer, APEX Clean Energy
Charlottesville, VA

Military Background

Young served in Europe and in the Washington, DC, metro area as an Infantry Officer in the 1st Armored Division and the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), the Army’s premier ceremonial unit. He is Airborne and Ranger qualified.

Solar Career Pathway

Young earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and systems engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame. Prior to joining Apex, Young worked for Vestas Wind Systems as a chief program manager, overseeing technology support throughout the Americas. He also spent several years leading asset management, operations, and other functions at two start-up renewable energy companies.

As Apex Clean Energy’s chief operating officer, Young leads the Apex team in its execution of core business operations, with the purpose of delivering world-class renewable energy projects. He holds responsibility for the development, engineering and construction, asset management, and direct support departments.

As he describes, the military taught flexibility, adaptability, and to work within a team to accomplish the mission. Solar energy projects require similar elements: it takes a coordinated team of experts that can adapt to changing circumstances to find success. In the military, a common hallmark was “Mission First, People Always.” That statement applies to solar as well: the team is what accomplishes the mission of bringing the project together and finding success, no matter the obstacles or challenges.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

The bar for getting hired into the solar energy industry is much higher than the actual work, as the jobs are highly desired and quite competitive as a result. My advice is to use the military network to find opportunities and get noticed. When you are given the opportunity to interview, ensure you have done your homework: know the industry, know the company, know the various roles, and apply your skill set to the potential opportunities well ahead of time. The interview is not the time for learning about the company—the interview should be confirmatory in nature. Ask for informational interviews, network, read, and get up to speed beforehand. Your competition is doing these things, and as someone new to the industry, you need to show your desire, effort, and applicability of skills.

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Evan Weaver

Project Manager, Norwich Solar Technologies
White River Junction, VT

Military Background

Evan commissioned through Army ROTC at the University of New Hampshire while earning his undergraduate degree in Politics from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH. Evan spent just under nine years on active duty as an Army Logistics Officer and had assignments at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of Army logistics including Army Materiel Command and 10th Mountain Division.

Solar Career Pathway

Evan transferred his leadership skills and logistics management background to the civilian solar sector by taking Project Management Professional (PMP) coursework through Onward to Opportunity at Fort Drum, NY and attending Tuck Next Step at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH prior to beginning his current role as a Project Manager for Norwich Solar Technologies in White River Junction, VT. In this role, Evan guides and develops the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) process of commercial-scale solar array installations for multiple concurrent projects in NH and VT. This includes managing the scope, budget, and schedules while also maintaining complex relationships with investors and clients, state and local governments entities, public utilities, contractors and subcontractors, and other community partners. Looking forward, Evan is continuing his education by attending Stanford Ignite at Stanford Graduate School of Business and obtaining his MBA at the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business in Babson Park, MA.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

Employment in the solar industry is competitive but veterans are extremely well matched for the industry in terms of being agile thinkers, problem solvers, and understanding how details and daily focus can affect the big picture or larger mission. There are many examples of veterans in solar who have found success. My direct advice is for service members to find the right programs to aid you in transitioning your background into the role you want to be within solar, from technical fields to marketing and beyond. The right programs might include those I mentioned or might be others such as Solar Ready Vets, command sponsored internships, or others. There are considerable resources for veterans who want to land on their feet in solar.

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Gregory Smith

Technical Training Manager, Sonnen Inc.
Sacramento, CA

Military Background

Greg retired from the US Navy in 2007 and spent his career as a Sonar Technician and a Master Training Specialist. He completed three sea duty tours on two different submarines, all stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI. As an instructor, he served at the US Submarine Base in Groton, CT and the training center in Pearl.

Solar Career Pathway

After retirement, Greg was picked up by SMA America in 2008 as a technical trainer. His knowledge of electronics was a plus, but his background as a trainer is what caught SMA’s eye. He quickly advanced to the senior technical trainer and trained thousands of industry professionals during his 7 ½ years at SMA. In July of 2015, Greg shifted to German battery system manufacturer Sonnen, Inc. As Sonnen’s Technical Training Manager, Greg continues his career as a sought-after expert for panel discussions, industry conferences and events, and contributions to professional media outlets. Greg is well known in the industry as a passionate and entertaining speaker and regularly uploads content to LinkedIn.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

In the submarine force, it isn’t enough to only know your job. You must know much more, and I find that mentality serves me well in the solar storage industry. Trainers are the go-to people, so it is important to know more than just your company’s product. You have to know the systems it connects to, how inspectors will react to it, and how it integrates with third party devices. Of course, you must teach people how to use your products, and how to install them, but I find more time must be spent teaching people how to properly size battery systems. There are many areas to dive into in this industry. De-militarize your resume, find something that interests you in the industry that has transferable skill sets, and go for it. We need you!

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Seth Mansur

Commercial Renewable Energy Business Development,
RER Energy Group
Sturbridge, MA

Military Background

Seth served as an Intelligence Specialist throughout his 8-year U.S. Marine Corps enlistment. His primary duty station was with the 25th Marine Regiment HQ Company S-2; with his OIF deployment carried out with the 2nd Battalion, 25 Marine Regiment in the Al Anbar Province.

Solar Career Pathway

Seth developed an undergraduate major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and titled it: Sustainable Development & Experiential Education, which served as a lens by which all career decisions were carried out to be a force within the sustainable development profession. He became involved in the solar industry after first working as a sales representative for a third party energy supply company, where he connected ratepayers with a renewable energy supply option for their electric bill. Through this experience, he saw the benefits that 3rd party energy supply provided, particularly for tenants that don’t own their residence/place of business/etc to support renewables and receive billing discounts, but lacked the long term impact he wanted since contracts generally range from 6-36 months.

To address the need for long term sustainability solutions, he started his solar career generating qualified referrals for SolarCity. When he applied for a sales job they looked at the pipeline of opportunities and deals that closed from his referral work and offered him a job on the spot. For people interested in a sales role in solar, Seth highly recommends doing some advance work to identify potential transactions that you can bring to a potential employer, this will show your initiative and that you will hit the ground running and not take forever to ramp up.

Seth’s current work with RER Energy Group services organizations’ energy needs including solar PV, energy storage systems, EV car/truck chargers, demand management and analytic tools, along with energy efficiency solutions for HVAC, lighting, and other infrastructure needs. Additionally, Seth’s team develops and builds solar farms, ranging from urban rooftops (solar gardens) to 5-1500 acre+ solar assets.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

Seth’s work in the S-2/Intelligence space in the Marines prepared him in a variety of ways, some specific to his current work with others supporting any professional path you are looking to pursue:

Take ownership: this applies to your job search, military transition, any formal/informal job training you need to succeed in solar. Though there are a multitude of transferable skills from the military, having an ethos of taking ownership of what you do will reward you well throughout your career.

Public speaking: preparing and executing daily briefings to Battalion leadership, along with patrol briefings and other times he needed to communicate with leaders.

Networking: Seth grew his network through multiple intelligence related departments wherever he operated extending the resources at his disposal. This also came into play by his outreach to various DOD and government agencies that had mapping data and services that greatly supported his unit since their resources were above and beyond what he had while in country in Iraq.

Content management: knowing how to categorize and organize data/communications from multiple sources is complex and can bog one down, having a dialed in system for prioritizing the content keeps the distractions and noise down allowing for focus on the key info that supports the commander’s intent / organization needs.

Mapping/GIS software: evaluating properties, particularly development on greenfield/undeveloped land required an understanding of mapping software. Having an understanding of land navigation, map development/creation, and the variety of layers and filters that can be used with GIS platforms has greatly helped him with renewable energy project search and property due diligence.

Technical writing: thanks in part to a technical writing class he took as part of his journeyman MOS school, he had daily practice of his technical writing skills for the various communications while running the S2 office. While in the service, this took the form of intelligence summaries, patrol debriefs, and the multitude of written correspondence with coordinating agencies.

A national security / risk management mindset: though difficult to quantify, viewing energy projects through this lens has helped in two distinct but connected ways:

National security: the shift from a centralized means of power generation, followed by heavy infrastructure to deliver the power creates a multitude of failure points, whether we consider a terrorist/cyber attack, or the multitude of technical failures due to hurricanes, ice storms, squirrels. Just like in maneuver warfare, decentralized systems are more resilient (solar, wind, batteries, fuel cell, electric vehicles, etc). Yes, almost the entire east coast was out of power while he was at Camp Lejeune training due to a squirrel jumping (most common reason explanation cited) on a substation that cascaded blackouts to millions of people in 2003, resulting in loss of life and nearly $6B in economic loss.

Risk management: there are a lot of people in sales and the environment movement that focus on the positives solar can bring but don’t appreciate the level of complexity and risk in pursuing and proposing transactions that aren’t suitable for all project stakeholders involved (property owner, energy ratepayer, financier, builder, etc). Applying the risk management strategies employed to keep training and combat operations safe are critical to the longevity of the solar/renewable energy industry.

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Logan Rozanski

Business Intelligence Developer
Austin, TX

Military Background

Logan Rozanski completed Marine Corps recruit training and technical training to become an electro-optical ordnance repairer. With orders to the 1st Battalion of the 4th Marine Regiment aboard Camp Pendleton, California he applied his technical training in electronics and optics, and trained further in maintenance management and supply chain administration.

Solar Career Pathway

Logan took part in a pilot cohort of the original Solar Ready Vets Program shortly before his discharge from active duty in April of 2015. Upon completion of the course, Logan accepted a position as a Remote Operations Control Center (ROCC) operator with SunPower in Austin, Texas. As a ROCC operator, he was responsible for operating SunPower’s utility-scale power plant fleet, supporting grid operations, drafting policy, remote diagnostics, and troubleshooting. He also supported value-stream mapping projects and alarm logic initiatives and subsequently transitioned into a supply chain analyst role at SunPower where he created policy, workflows, and software integrations for his business unit’s supply chain.

Logan is now a business intelligence developer at SunPower where he develops data integrations and reporting capabilities. He credits the Marine Corps for his critical thinking skills, knowledge of business process, and ability to apply novel perspective to challenging topics.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

The solar industry is fertile ground for servicemembers to use the skills they learn during their tours of duty in a rapidly growing arena. There is always demand for a critical thinker who can keep their efforts on target. Members of the veteran labor force are tailor made for this demand.

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Carlos Alberto Velazquez Lopez

Program Director, The Solar Foundation
San Juan, PR

Military Background

Carlos served in the United States Marine Corps from 1998 – 2006, primarily stationed with the 3rd Marines Air Wing at MCAS and as Inspector Instructor Staff for 4th Landing Support Battalion in Roosevelt Roads Naval Base.

Solar Career Pathway

Carlos earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Environmental Management and there he learned that one our greatest threats was climate change because of the burning of fossil fuels. The Department of Defense was already starting to recognize that climate change could cause threat multipliers to national security through the massification of climate refugees. Renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels seemed like a good and impactful way to continue to serve.

As a Director of a federally funded solar program in Puerto Rico, he is trusted with the important mission of ensuring adequate training for solar workers, developing microgrid demonstration projects in rural communities, educating and creating the right environment for a robust and sustainable solar financing structure and liaison with government, NGO and University officials who partner with us in our work. There are very tight deadlines, strict budget procedures and federal compliance matters that the attention to detail and mission accomplishment ethos that he learned at the USMC prepared him for this assignment.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

I encourage all transitioning service members who are interested in solar and energy efficiency to see it as more than just a job. You can have a very rewarding career. Every panel you install means a reduction in the emissions of green house gases. Every kilowatt hour you reduce and conserve helps the planet and future generations fight against the climate change. Working in solar is really an extension of the service we provided as a military member. Learn your trade well and have the same commitment to excellence. And you will be rewarded with promotions and a career path that will challenge you to continuously seek self-improvement.

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Edward Zinthefer

President and Owner, Arch Electric
Milwaukee, WI

Military Background

Ed served in the US Army Reserve for 23 years, spending most of his military career as a Drill Instructor and retiring as a First Sergeant.

Solar Career Pathway

Ed is the President and Owner of Arch Electric Inc, as well as a Member Owner in Amicus, a national solar installers cooperative comprised of 48 solar contractors across the US. Ed is a Master Electrician and NABCEP certified solar installer, with over 30 years in electrical construction experience, 14 of them directly associated with the solar industry. As an early leader in the field, Ed shared his knowledge developing curriculum and instructing solar courses for organizations such as Lakeshore Technical College, Waukesha Technical College & the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy Program sought Ed out as a Compliance Agent to ensure Electrical Code compliance in systems being installed by firms emerging into the solar installation industry. From 2003-2016, Arch installed over 1.8MW of cumulative small distributed solar generation. In 2017 alone, Arch had installed over 1.8MW of solar, providing a snapshot of the industry’s growth in SE Wisconsin. In 2020 Arch will have installed ~25MW of solar.

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Eric Schmidt

Solar Roof Consultant, Frank J. Tucek & Sons, Inc.
New York, NY

Military Background

Eric enlisted in the Army in 1985 as a paratrooper and did “basic infantry stuff” for the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, NC for 4 years, as a member of A Co., 3/505 PIR, serving from Honduras to Alaska. He subsequently served in various other positions with reserve and national guard units, and ETS’d from the Air National Guard as an HH-60 Pavehawk crew chief in 2001.

Solar Career Pathway

Eric took his first class in solar PV from the Solar Living Institute in 1996, but he didn’t start a full-time solar career until 2014. He wanted a way into the growing industry in the metro NYC market, and the easiest way in was getting on to a roof and installing solar panels. From there he took on various other positions within the scope of installing solar power. He’s worked as a crew electrician, project manager, commercial O&M technician, and in sales. He helped recruit others, including veterans, to build solar microgrids for the State of New York, Volvo, et al. In 2017, Eric joined a relief effort to restore power to customers with solar equipment in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, installing battery backup systems. Most recently Eric was on staff at the largest roofing materials manufacturer in America, who asked him to work with roofers, teaching them how solar PV equipment works and how to install solar roof systems.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

I think veterans work well in this industry because they know how to work both as a team or individually with minimal supervision to accomplish the task at hand. Many veterans are also very technically proficient as a result of their military training; this lends itself well to the nature of solar PV electronics, mechanical systems, etc. The solar industry is still nascent, and as it becomes more mainstream it will need competent, capable people to run it. For transitioning vets, I suggest, if they don’t mind heights, getting on a roof with a solar crew and starting as an installer. They will know exactly what makes the systems work and this can be extremely helpful to others on the team.

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Eric Jefferson

CEO, HyghViz Safety Professionals, LLC
Rocky Mount, NC

Military Background

Eric Jefferson enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in the winter of 1996. While being stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC, Mr. Jefferson received orders to Okinawa, Japan. It was there that he had his first official job in safety as the Safety Statistician. It was also in Okinawa, Japan where Mr. Jefferson became the Chief Instructor for the unit’s martial arts program, where the safety of the Marines and Sailors came first and foremost. Mr. Jefferson would later hold safety positions at two more duty stations of Oahu, Hawaii, and San Diego, California. With experience in safety roles from three different occasions, Mr. Jefferson felt guided towards a civilian career in safety.

Solar Career Pathway

After retirement from the United States Marine Corps, Mr. Jefferson searched for his first job in safety. That first job came in the form of a Safety Coordinator for Strata Solar. He was sent to Richmond, Virginia where he provided OSHA 10s and Safety Orientations for all workers before they went to the four solar projects in the Virginia area. All of the values that Mr. Jefferson learned in the Marine Corps assisted him in teaching on a daily basis: over the span of 20 years in the Marine Corps, countless hours were spent on weapon safety, proper hydration, and other safety briefs before every training evolution and combat operation. The attention to detail and various learning methods used were always on full display. Mr. Jefferson would add OSHA 500 to his credentials while working with Strata Solar and go on to work for 2 more solar companies, J&B Solar and East Carolina Commercial Services. At J&B Solar they drove piles during his time with them, while East Carolina Commercial Services was involved with installing racking and hanging modules. Mr. Jefferson added the Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST) to his credentials during this time. He is currently the CEO of HyghViz Safety professionals, LLC.

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Timothy J. Harris

Founder, HyghViz Safety Professionals, LLC
Rocky Mount, NC

Military Background

Harris enlisted in the United States Coast Guard not too long after high school, going through Boot Camp at Cape Mae, New Jersey. He proudly served upon the the United States Coast Guard Cutter Tampa during his first duty assignment. Tampa was a Law Enforcement cutter with a focus on maritime safety. It was on board the Tampa where Harris began his safety career and his rigorous training in maritime and shipboard safety. The dual mission of law enforcement cutters also often entails a Search and Rescue mission. The search and rescue safety training combined with the law enforcement training paved the way for Harris’ civilian safety career.

Solar Career Pathway

Solar Construction is an excellent way to transition from military conditioning into civilian life. Harris became accustomed to traveling and moving around and he landed a job with Power Source under the extraordinary leadership of Robert Blackman, the superintendent for the Princeston, North Carolina solar project. Mr. Blackman made Harris the safety representative on site. This gave Harris the ability to use his Coast Guard safety discipline to help the project finish with success. This opportunity also helped launch his civilian safety career. He continued working in the industry in the area of on-site safety. Empowered with the first opportunity in solar safety inspired Harris to gain his OSHA 30, 510, and eventually his OSHA 500. The OSHA 500 made Harris an OSHA outreach trainer. During this journey he attended Columbia Southern University, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Safety and Health. Harris did not stop there: he obtained his Master’s of Science Degree on Occupational Safety and Health shortly after. Today, Harris is a Graduate Safety Practitioner with the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and is the Executive Officer and Executive Safety Officer of HyghViz Safety Professionals, LLC. Harris is a Solar Safety Instructor at The Center for Energy Education in Roanoke Rapids, NC (this training center sits on a 20 megawatt solar farm) and at Halifax Community College of Weldon, NC.

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Chadd Breit

Apprentice Electrician and Field Operations, Arch Electric
Milwaukee, WI

Military Background

Chadd joined the Army on August 25, 1994 after high school as an Infantryman, and retired November 30, 2018. He is a proven leader with over 20 years of supervisory and leaderships skills in challenging and hazardous work environments. Chadd has 5 combat deployments including Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn; in total Chadd spent 49 months in combat duty.

Solar Career Pathway

Chadd is now employed with Arch Electric as an Apprentice Electrician and NABCEP Photovoltaic Associate with just under 2 years of experience in the electrical and solar industries. Although he has very little background in either field, his passion for learning, mentoring, sharing knowledge, and being detail oriented is a driving force for his second career.

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Tim Perry

Director of Information Technology, SEIA
Washington, DC

Military Background

Tim served in the Marine Corps from 1993-1997 with 8th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Lejeune and Marine Air Group 12 in Iwakuni Japan.

Solar Career Pathway

After leaving the military Tim worked for MacNiel/Lehrer Productions, the company behind PBS News Hour, for 13 years. His supervisor eventually left to work for SEIA in 2010 and invited Tim to join him there in 2013. Tim was interested in renewable energy and thought it would be a great opportunity to join the growing movement. He has worked at SEIA for seven years now as the Director of Information Technology, where he maintains SEIA’s network and communications systems.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

My time in the Marine Corps made me realize how useful solar power could be for the military. Renewable energy is the way of the future, and pursuing a solar career will allow you to get ahead and to be part of an industry that isn’t going away any time soon. There is a role in the solar industry for anyone. If you did hands-on work in the military, you can find a hands-on role in the solar industry. If you did administrative work in the military, you can find an administrative role in the solar industry. If you did technological work in the military, you can find a technological role in the solar industry. No matter what you did in the military, your skills and talents can be leveraged to serve in a similar capacity in the solar industry.

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Timothy Marvich

Vice President of Distributed Energy Resources, Apex Clean Energy
Charlottesville, VA

Military Background

Tim Marvich served in the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado and in the 35th Air Defense Brigade in Fort Bliss, Texas as an Air Defense Officer. He is Combat Diver qualified.

Solar Career Pathway

Tim earned his bachelor’s degree in mapping, charting, and geodesy from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Prior to joining Apex, he led distributed generation market analysis, site acquisition, and early-stage development for NextEra Energy Resources. Tim was also a project development manager focusing on California wind and solar for EDP Renewables, and transitioned from the Army into the civilian world with a major homebuilder. Now, as Apex Clean Energy’s lead in distributed energy resources, Tim is responsible for building a business from scratch in the emerging DER space, which includes community solar, energy storage, net-metering, electric vehicle infrastructure, micro-grids, and other emerging, small-scale renewables.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

The leadership honed and refined in the military has always been a great differentiator for me. It’s an intangible—but important—trait that is directly applicable in the civilian world. Being a leader of character has always been a focus; it’s such an important trait to have, display, and share. Leading well improves the whole organization. For service members interested in entering the solar workforce, I would recommend being able to highlight points of similarity such as complex problem solving, teamwork, persistence and perseverance, management, and leadership challenges and victories—while the ingredients might be different, the recipes are the same. Also, be able to articulate tangible results with specific examples—specific examples and even metrics are a great way to show that you know how to quantify success. Finally, come prepared to interviews by digging deep into the industry: research, subscribe, learn the lingo, network, and ask questions.

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Jeff Hammond

Director of Project Development, Apex Clean Energy
Charlottesville, VA

Military Background

Commander Hammond (retired) served as a commissioned Coast Guard officer for over 20 years after graduating from the US Coast Guard Academy. His service includes a tour at sea where, as the lead boarding officer, he made several very large drug busts; several search and rescue units; as Comptroller of the CG’s largest training facility; and finally serving in command of Group Buffalo where he was fully responsible for law enforcement, homeland security, and search and rescue on 390 miles of US/Canadian border of the eastern Great Lakes. That command included the oversight of 12 subordinate units in 3 states with a total of 334 personnel, and 44 boats.

Solar Career Pathway

One of CDR Hammond’s tours, not mentioned above, was as the Regional Manager at the US Coast Guard Pollution Fund Center. During his 3-year tour he led a team of seven case officers overseeing the complete financial support of oil and hazardous chemical spill responses in the most active region in the U.S. (Gulf Coast and Central U.S.). This included supporting 18 field units and managing over 700 spill responses (including the then largest since Exxon Valdez). After seeing so many needless spills, and immediately upon retirement, CDR Hammond found employment with Ecology and Environment and soon rose to lead their renewable energy business line. From there he started his career in the solar energy business as a developer. Now, as Apex Clean Energy’s Director of Project Development, CDR Hammond leads development of utility scale wind and solar projects in VA, WV and PA (mid-Atlantic PJM).

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

A career in the Coast Guard taught me the importance of planning for any outcome, communicating clearly and effectively, keeping the team on task and on target, and being adaptable to change course quickly when needed. Successful development of solar energy projects requires all these skills. Like military service, working in the solar field allows you to make this world a better place by protecting our planet for future generations. Our efforts are also highly valued and appreciated, often by folks you don’t even know. At the end of every day you know you made a difference in this world.

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Riley Strohmenger

Solar Installer, Arch Electric
Milwaukee, WI

Military Background

Riley underwent Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Lee, VA from October 2014 through September 2015. He served as an Allied Trades Specialist doing welding and machining and was then retrained as an 88U Railway Adviser. As a US Army Reserve member, Riley still serves in the 757 Expeditionary Rail Center, the only rail unit in the entire US Army.

Solar Career Pathway

Riley decided to pursue a one year Electrical Trade Program at Fox Valley Technical College, covering residential and commercial electric trade as well as solar and renewable energy. He had a blast learning about renewable energy, installing panels on a mock-up roof, and wiring and mounting an inverter. He liked the idea of helping to move the world in a “greener” direction, so he applied to be a solar installer at Arch Electric.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

The military taught me to easily work with others and how to adapt, improvise, and overcome any adversity. This comes into play all the time at Arch. From having to work with new people to running into problems on site, I consider myself lucky to have been well prepared by the Army to be able to work and problem solve with others. If you are willing and eager to learn, solar is right for you. To any veteran considering solar, or Arch for that matter, I highly recommend it. It is a growing industry that needs good workers, solid leaders, and people that can think outside of the box.

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Eric Langum

Solar Installer, Arch Electric
Milwaukee, WI

Military Background

Eric enlisted in the Navy Reserve in November 2009 as an Intelligence Specialist. He was stationed in Ft. Sheridan, IL and assigned to EUCOM JAC 0366. Eric worked as an analyst in the Counter Terrorism Branch within his unit and traveled to the United Kingdom and Germany for various Joint Military exercises that also included NATO allies. Eric was awarded Junior Sailor of the Quarter twice and Honorably Discharged in July 2016 as a Second Class Petty Officer.

Solar Career Pathway

While Eric was in the Reserves, one of his civilian jobs was a Low Voltage Technician Apprentice. Because he had a little experience in a trade and didn’t feel cut out for a desk job anymore, Eric applied at Arch Electric. He was hired in September 2019 and has had a great experience.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

In the Navy, I learned to lead from the rear. This is applicable to solar because there isn’t one task that’s easier than another when it comes to installing solar. You have to be engaged with the mission and your co-workers. Listen, give constructive criticism, and take criticism from your team. While you may not be a leader out in the field, it’s still an important skill to have.

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Daniel Shiley

Project Manager, Arch Electric
Milwaukee, WI

Military Background

Dan underwent Basic Training in 1985 and then served as B-52 Gunner in the 524th Bomb Squadron of the 379th SAC Air Wing at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County, Michigan.

Solar Career Pathway

Dan has been a project manager in the trades for a number of years now, ranging from underground infrastructure to highway construction to masonry. He based his education around the goal of becoming the best project manager he could be. Now with an opportunity to be in the solar field, Dan feels right at home at Arch Electric. It’s a fast paced and regimented field with so much growth potential.

Advice for service members entering the solar workforce

The military builds great leaders with the ability to think on their feet. I know quite a few of my veteran buddies that are now working as project managers. I think that is what helped me build my skill sets that are now being used in the solar industry. I learned how to build strong teams and drive to a common goal. It is truly amazing what we are accomplishing here. I can only imagine if we were this advanced when I was in the service, we would have panels all over the base.

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David Quattro

President, Quattro Solar
Novato, CA

Military Background

David was active duty for 9 years in the Coast Guard. Upon earning a Bachelor of Science from in Mechanical Engineering from the US Coast Guard Academy, where he learned to design and build electro-mechanical systems to be strong and safe. He served onboard the MORGENTHAU as an engineer in training, then in an engineering shore support position, responsible for projects on 3 large ships on the west coast and Hawaii.

Solar Career Pathway

After leaving the service, he learned home construction and found a position at a large solar company as a Field Service Technician, where he was responsible for troubleshooting PV systems. He earned NABCEP certification in 2008, and shortly after earned a patent related to grounding solar power circuits, which has application in the conventional electrical industry as a whole.

He earned a California contractor license ten years ago, and launched Quattro Solar Inc, which specializes in sales, design and installation of commercial solar power, generators, lithium batteries and micro-grids.

Are you a veteran working in solar?

We're collecting "Service to Solar" stories to showcase military talent across the American solar workforce. Share your solar career pathway -- drop us a line at info[at]americansolarworkforce.org.