Under clean energy initiative, military bases will be chosen to provide solar job training to veterans
The federal government will be launching a pilot program to provide training to veterans seeking jobs in the solar industry, and Congressman Brian Higgins is urging the U.S. Department of Energy to designate the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station as one of the sites.
"Not only is Western New York the home to thousands of veterans, but it is also soon to be home to the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the Western Hemisphere," Higgins said. "Implementing this program at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station would assist Western New York veterans in finding employment, it would help build the economy of the community through an expanded mission at the base, and it would continue the needed focus on advancing alternative, clean energy."
Higgins wrote to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz encouraging him to select Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station for one of three pilot sites being chosen to connect veterans with job training in the solar industry.
"Niagara Falls has a long history as a center of renewable electric energy development, dating back to the time of Tesla and Edison," said City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. "Our local chapter of the IBEW just celebrated its 100th anniversary. We also have a large number of veterans, many looking to apply their military skills to new career opportunities. With the announcement of plans for the SolarCity development just down the road, bringing this program to the Niagara Falls base is, quite frankly, a 'no-brainer.' "
The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station sits on a 987-acre site and is home to more than 3,000 military and civilian jobs, serving as the largest employer in Niagara County.
"This is a great technology and a good opportunity for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and local veterans," said Col. Robin Pfeil, USAF (Ret.), board of directors for the Niagara Military Affairs Council, which supports the growth and success of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
Earlier this week, Higgins and Dyster participated in the groundbreaking of SolarCity's newest solar panel manufacturing plant, which took place in Buffalo - just 25 miles from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
Western New York is home to over 114,000 veterans and is known for its dedicated workforce. This pilot program would leave veterans well positioned to fill a portion of the 3,000 new jobs that are expected to come with the opening of SolarCity's solar power manufacturing plant.
"Our region's veterans are a skilled, adaptable, disciplined, experienced and proven workforce," said Roger L. Woodworth, president and CEO of the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY Inc. "Designating the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station as a pilot site for job training of veterans in the solar industry not only supports Western New York's strategy for prosperity by providing training for veterans, it allows for our veterans to improve their position and participation in the workforce, leading to jobs with livable wages. Training for careers in the solar industry helps to both attract and retain veteran talent in WNY's workforce, while helping WNY leverage our emergence as the preferred region for advanced manufacturing and renewable energy."
The pilot program was announced by President Obama last week as a component of a broad initiative to advance solar deployment and energy efficiency. The effort will be funded through the Department of Energy and coordinated through the DOE's Solar Instructor Training Network.