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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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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Logan Rozanski

Business Intelligence Developer, Sunpower
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 Velázquez López

Program Director, The Solar Foundation
San Juan, Puerto Rico

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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David Quattro

Owner, Quattro Solar
San Francisco, 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.