Veterans Go Solar For Freedom, Security, and Jobs

Chris Carnevale | November 11, 2015 | Energy Policy, Solar
Marine Corps solar installation in Morocco, allowing for a secure energy supply. Photo courtesy Maj. Paul Greenberg.

Today we honor and express our thanks to America’s veterans for their public service and dedication to protecting the United States. Furthermore, we wish to give a special recognition to our veterans who once advanced our nation’s military goals and are now advancing our nation’s domestic goals in the solar industry.

There is a special connection between the military and renewable energy. The military has a long tradition of leveraging technological innovation to maintain a leading edge, and as such is deeply committed to developing renewable energy to boost the nation’s competitiveness. In fact, the military is one of the largest purchasers of renewable energy in the United States. The Department of Defense has established a goal to source 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025, while the Department of the Navy is seeking 50 percent by 2020.

The recent film The Burden revealed how the military regards renewable energy as an immense national security priority. Our troops all over the world are dependent upon fuel for their operations and with conventional fossil fuels such as oil, maintaining supply lines is very costly, takes large amounts of  manpower, and also compromises our service members’ safety. Think of convoys in Iraq or airdropped oil in the mountains of Afghanistan. When the Army calculated the toll of convoys on military troops in a 2009 report, they found that one out of every 24 military convoys resulted in a casualty in Afghanistan and one in 39 convoys resulted in a casualty in Iraq. Half of these convoys were to deliver or secure fuel. Between 2003 and 2007, one of every eight Army soldiers killed in duty in Iraq lost their lives to protect fuel convoys. In addition to the lives lost, the cost to obtain and protect oil around the world is very high: the film notes that $85 billion is spent annually, about 17 percent of the Defense Department’s total budget, on protecting oil and shipping chokepoints such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal.


The strategic advantage for our troops that can be gained by generating power from the sun or wind is clear, but their benefits don’t stop at the border. In recent years, the solar industry has welcomed home troops, who have high value skills, with good jobs in a quickly growing industry. A report from earlier this year, Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Future, explains:


The United States military is one of the premier training and leadership development institutions in the world. Our servicemen and women complete rigorous technical training and often assume leadership roles early in their careers. Veterans bring an invaluable set of skills into the workforce and are well suited for careers in business management and innovative tech industries. For this reason, veterans make ideal candidates for employment in the rapidly growing solar industry – which to continue expanding, will require access to a highly skilled workforce and recruitment of talented business leaders.

The report also shares that as of 2013, more than 13,000 veterans work in the solar industry, representing nearly 10 percent of the solar workforce–a higher percentage than most industries. In order to help place additional veterans in the solar industry, the Department of Defense and Department of Energy have launched the Solar Ready Vets program.

We have some excellent examples of veteran owned solar businesses here in Southeast, which we are proud to feature here.

Tampa Energy Solutions Meet Steve Rutherford, retired Navy SEAL Commander and owner of Tampa Energy Solutions. Steve says he is on a mission… “a mission to liberate people. He’s not talking about some overseas front, although he certainly has plenty of experience there, tracking down Al Qaeda operatives and saving American lives in Afghanistan. He’s talking about helping Floridians go solar. Tampa Energy Solutions, with five employees, is small but growing. The newest full-time team member is a veteran who is just finishing college – Rutherford says installing solar is a great entry-level position for those finishing military service. He’s also working with a minority solar training program that’s just getting off the ground in Tampa. Steve says, “The American people fight for freedom. We’re a nation that wanted to be freed from the binds of Great Britain, and again and again throughout history. Solar is the next frontier. I think the Americans I’m serving as my customers still have that in them, to fight for freedom. I am for all people being independent and self-sufficient.” Read more about Steve and Tampa Energy Solutions in our #SolarWorks4Me blog series here.

Hannah Solar Government Services Hannah Solar Government Services, based in North Charleston, South Carolina, was founded by retired Army Colonel Dave McNeil as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. The majority of full-time employees at Hannah Solar Government Services are veterans, and they seek to hire Veterans and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses for all employees, vendors, suppliers, and sub-contractors as much as possible. HSGS has installed solar systems at numerous defense facilities, including for the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, Air National Guard, and Army Reserve.

Efficient Energy of Tennessee Based in Powell, Tennessee, EETN is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business owned by Robbie Thomas, who served more than 20 years in the Navy’s submarine nuclear propulsion program. Thomas and EETN now use their experience to help the Department of Veterans Affairs reduce energy use and save money. EETN has installed solar systems on four Veterans Affairs medical centers, with more projects in the pipeline. Thomas says that EETN is in a period of rapid growth and expansion, having grown to 20 employees just since 2009.

We wish to thank these veteran owned solar businesses, for fighting for energy freedom and increasing our energy security in the Southeast, as well as veterans all over the world. If you haven’t yet, take some time today to thank the veterans in your life who dutifully served our nation, go ahead and pick up the phone to give them a call.

Chris Carnevale
Chris is SACE’s Climate Advocacy Director. Chris joined the SACE staff in 2011 to help with building public understanding and engagement around clean energy solutions to the climate crisis. Chris…
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