DOE Announces Project as part of $60 Million to Drive Affordable, Efficient Solar Power

(Chicago, IL) – Announced today by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) will work as national administrator with the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and DOE to build a training and education framework that grows the expertise and preparedness of current and future electric utility sector professionals – specifically to accommodate high penetrations of solar and other distributed technologies.

“The tremendous growth in the U.S. solar industry over the past few years is helping to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future that protects our air and water and provides affordable clean energy to more and more Americans,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The announcement was made at Solar Power International (SPI), the solar energy industry’s leading educational conference and product exhibition, this week Chicago.

Secretary Moniz announced a series of awards to further reduce solar costs – including soft costs like permitting, installation and interconnection– and to improve hardware performance and efficiency.

“The need to grow the expertise and preparedness of current and incoming electric utility sector professionals is paramount to the success of solar and other distributed energy technologies,” says Joe Sarubbi, who through IREC will serve as project manager of GEARED, for Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment, included in today’s announcements of awards by DOE. “The electric utility sector is suffering from a dearth of power systems engineers, and the knowledge-drain will worsen as the industry faces more retirements.”

“DOE’s SunShot Initiative got it right putting the building blocks in place for  a national power systems training and education framework.  Along with our partner SEPA, IREC brings years of quality workforce strategies and standards into play as we start work with DOE and their consortia of distributed technology training partners,” said Jane Weissman, IREC president and CEO.

Specifically, the project will ensure nationwide consistency of training and education programs and courses, through the identification and sharing of best practices, industry workforce standards and national credentialing pathways. The five-year GEARED project will facilitate and support efforts of the new Distributed Technology Training Consortia.

IREC and SEPA will coordinate multiple activities; connect diverse stakeholders; and create accountability for the quality and consistency of education and training programs, in part by providing expert analysis and recommendations regarding program evaluation and assessment.

Among several unique outcomes of GEARED will be an online directory of power engineering courses, and a student-centered education and peer research exchange conference where students can meet and learn alongside renewable energy professionals from the electric utility industry.

The Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.  For more information, visit