May 9 was a momentous day for solar energy with one giant announcement kicking off a new set of promising and proven actions.  President Obama publicized more than 300 private and public sector commitments to create jobs and cut carbon pollution by advancing solar deployment and energy efficiency.

POTUS at Wal-Mart Mountain View CA May 9, 2014
Image: The White House

Some of these headline initiatives included innovative financing for deploying solar, two billion dollars in energy efficiency investments for federal buildings, improving appliance efficiency, strengthening building codes and, drumroll please, additional investment in building a competent solar workforce.

The White House announcement went on to say, “To enable a skilled workforce to support the growth of solar deployment across America, the DOE’s Solar Instructor Training Network will support training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020. This builds upon SunShot’s existing Solar Instructor Training Network of nearly 400 community colleges in 49 states that have trained over 22,000 people to join the solar industry since 2010.

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) is fortunate to serve since 2010 as the national administrator for DOE’s Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN).  This Network is built on visionary design and an effective implementation plan from DOE’s Solar Office under the leadership of Minh Le and put into action by Chris Nichols and Rose Marie Holsing.

The nationwide  organization includes nine Regional Training Providers (RTP) covering all corners of our country.  It is through this matrix of regional instructional and educational centers that innovative curricula, career pathways, online and mobile learning modules filter down to hundreds of community colleges and training organizations. The relationship from national to regional hubs to local schools and organizations is an impressive and resourceful way of bringing consistent quality instruction to ensure a rightly-skilled and competitive solar workforce.

SITN Regional Training Providers

What makes the SITN work are the people leading the regional training centers. Here’s the dynamic group of dedicated and smart people who make things happen with the right results:

  • Northeast RTP | Kennebec Valley Community College
  • Northeast RTP | Hudson Valley Community College
  • Northern Mid-Atlantic RTP | Pennsylvania State University
  • Southern Mid-Atlantic RTP | North Carolina Solar Center at North Carolina State University
  • Southeast RTP | Florida Solar Energy Center at University of Central Florida
  • South Central RTP | Houston Community College Northeast
  • Midwest RTP | Midwest Renewable Energy Association
  • Rocky Mountain RTP | Salt Lake Community College, Solar Energy International, Utah Solar Energy Association
  • California/Hawaii RTP | California Community Colleges System, Hawaii University System

The National Administrator team at IREC adds leadership, expertise, coordination, and a good sense of humor.   Add the expert talent that leading experts in the solar industry and education fields bring to the table and there’s a formidable and amazing team in action.

Just at the front door of the Solar Instructor Training Network, there are  more than 30 people making all of this work.  No doubt, meeting the president’s call for a highly-skilled and competent solar energy workforce of practitioners and professionals is and will continue to flourish.

May 9th was a foggy, drizzly day in the Boston area but the sun was shining brightly.


From the White House: Solar Progress Report: Advancing Toward a Clean Energy Future, May 2014