Shining a Light on the Solar Industry

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I looked very pregnant when I asked them to take me up on the roof. I had just finished talking to the team at Central Virginia Community College where I had been sitting in the conference room. For the whole interview, my short frame was wedged underneath the table where the receptionist had sat me before my subjects arrived.

They offered to take me on the roof to see the solar panels they were using for the class. I said yes and stood up, revealing my bulging belly.

I laughed at the awkwardness and told them I was still fine with stairs and walking. And then, we went up to see the hands-on-learning station for their solar power program.

A Bright Future

When I first got the assignment for this article, I accepted quickly. The topic was timely, both locally and nationally. While solar power is on the rise, the government was discussing whether to roll back provisions for solar power.

Shortly after publishing, Trump turned an eye toward taking away the Solar Investment Tax credit.

The solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is one of the most important federal policy mechanisms to support the growth of solar energy in the United States. Since the ITC was enacted in 2006, the U.S. solar industry has grown by more than 10,000% – creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and investing billions of dollars in the U.S. economy in the process. In 2015, SEIA successfully advocated for a multi-year extension of the credit, which has provided critical stability for businesses and investors. Despite the overwhelming success and popularity of the ITC, the value of the credit will unfortunately start decreasing after 2019.

SEIA.org

Later, his tarriffs impacted the industry, partially because the parts that American Solar Panel Manufacturers use to make those panels come from China. In spite of this, the industry has continued to grow both in the U.S. and globally. As a news junkie, I had been following the conversation surrounding the solar energy industry.

I was excited to see what Virginia was doing to prepare workers for that growth.

My article focused on how Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) and Affordable Energy Concepts have created a new program to train students in solar power.

Affordable Energy Concepts

At first, I drove right past Affordable Energy Concepts in Madison Heights. Their unassuming building did indeed have solar panels on the roof — just much smaller than I had expected.

Inside, I spoke with Alex Haney and quickly realized what an excellent opportunity this class provided. Essentially, Haney partnered with CVCC because he needed trained workers for projects. As the solar energy field expands, the workforce must also expand.

In the class, students will learn a lot about how to do a site assessment. Meaning, which side of the roof to put the panels on or where in a field you would put it.

Alex Haney, Project Manager at Affordable Energy Concepts and Adjunct Professor at CVCC

As we walked around their facilities, talking about the details of the solar panels they install, I considered the impact this program could have on Virginia’s workforce. Young people who enjoyed working with their hands could start a satisfying career in just a few semesters.

Central Virginia Community College

When I met with the team at CVCC, I learned that they usually create their programs around an existing or future workforce need. Across America, the skilled trade workforce is aging out — as most millennials were pushed toward white-collar jobs and university educations.

One of the advantages we have here is a great working relationship with the local energy companies. They’re very supportive of the college.

Will Sandidge, Director of Strategic Initiatives at CVCC

Now, the demand for skilled workers is high, especially in the energy industry. CVCC has put together several programs, including one in solar power, to meet this growing need.

You can read the full story at A Bright Future: CVVC Prepares a Solar Energy Workforce with Lynchburg Living Magazine.

Additional Reading

  • Solar Investment Tax Credit at SEIA.org
  • President Trump Slaps Tariffs on Solar Panels in Major Blow to Renewable Energy at Time Magazine
  • Solar Has New Way to Duck Trump’s Tariffs: Two-Sided Panels at Bloomberg
  • Under Trump’s Tariffs, The US Lost 20,000 Solar Energy Jobs from Forbes
  • US solar industry gets unlikely boost from the Trump administration from CNBC
  • After being rocked by Trump tariffs, the solar energy business is bouncing back from CNBC

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