On Monday, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off the first cohort of Solar Works DC, a job training program that installs cost-saving solar energy systems on the homes of low-income residents. A joint effort between the district’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and the Department of Employment Services, the program will provide on-the-job technical training to more than 200 D.C. residents between the ages of 18 to 24 and reduce energy costs for up to 300 D.C. residents by as much as $600 annually.
“As the nation’s capital, we need to lead the way when it comes to protecting and preserving our environment. Last month, I signed a mayoral order reaffirming Washington, D.C.’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, and today’s launch of Solar Works DC is a concrete example of how my administration is taking local action to fight climate change,” said Bowser. “By preparing Washingtonians for careers in rapidly expanding green industries and making it easier for residents to access clean energy, we are taking our commitment to the environment and D.C.’s green economy one step further and modeling how cities can lead the way on this critical global issue.”
The Bowser administration initially launched Solar Works DC in May with nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic. The program will operate three cohorts throughout the year – summer, fall, and spring – with the summer cohort made up of participants from the award-winning Green Zone Environmental Program (GZEP). Throughout the summer, GZEP partners with the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program to provide over 300 youth and young adults, ages 14 to 24, with an opportunity to learn about energy and environmental issues and complete community-based environmental work projects such as rain gardens and storm drain markers. Part of DOEE’s comprehensive Green Pathways initiative, GZEP is one of the nation’s largest summer green jobs training programs for youth and young adults.
“The job trainees of today will be the entrepreneurs and mentors of tomorrow,” said Nicole Steele, executive director of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic. “Solar Works DC is providing individuals with hands-on job training experience in the solar industry, while providing renewable energy for district residents who need it the most.”
According to The Solar Foundation’s job census, there were 260,077 solar workers in the U.S. in 2016, a 25% increase over 2015. In 2016, there were 1,180 solar jobs in Washington, D.C., a growth rate of 18%, with a projected growth of 26% in 2017. Sectors in need of trained solar professionals include installation, manufacturing, sales and distribution, project development, and operations. The median wage for solar installers in the district is $26 per hour.
At Monday’s kickoff event, Bowser was also presented with the SolSmart Gold award by Andrea Leucke, president and CEO of The Solar Foundation. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, the SolSmart program recognizes communities addressing local barriers to solar energy development. The Gold award is the highest designation category possible, and D.C. scored one of the highest cumulative totals in the country, scoring particularly well in the areas of utility engagement and community engagement.
Last week, the Bowser administration also announced its intent to award $13.2 million in Solar for All DC Innovation and Expansion Grants to 10 awardees. The $13.2 million will result in the deployment of 7 MW of solar generation capacity. The funded projects will provide opportunities for job training and employment, support local economic development, reduce the energy burdens and costs for low-income residents whether they own or rent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Since Bowser took office in 2015, 19 MW of solar, or 32% of the district’s total capacity, has been developed, and over 1,600 solar energy systems have been installed, representing a 56% increase in the number of systems. In the past two-and-a-half years, the Bowser administration has launched the Climate Ready DC plan and entered into one of the largest municipal on-site solar projects in the U.S. Currently, the D.C. government is 100% powered by renewable energy, and D.C. is on track to derive at least one-half of the entire city’s electricity from renewable resources by 2032.
Photo courtesy of The Solar Foundation: Mayor Bowser accepted the SolSmart Gold award at the kickoff event