Solar Builder shoutout to Melanie Santiago-Mosier for her commitment to diversity in solar

Vote Solar advocacy award

Melanie Santiago-Mosier is someone you should know about. She is the Vote Solar Access & Equity Director and was awarded the competitive Advocacy Award during the 7th annual U.S. Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Women in Clean Energy Symposium, a distinct award that recognizes Santiago-Mosier for her impact advancing clean energy through policy leadership. C3E is a prestigious program of the Department of Energy, in collaboration with MIT, Texas A&M, and Stanford, that honors outstanding women in clean energy. The award ceremony was held today at Stanford University.

“It’s an honor to be recognized in this year’s cohort of C3E awardees,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier. “I’ve had the privilege of working with women whose tireless support and mentorship has been a source of inspiration throughout my career, and today I’m humbled to be among distinguished leaders committed to the success of women and excited about the opportunity to use this honor as a springboard for continuing to support women in clean energy.”

We’ll get to her background in a minute, but first know this: Based on a deep personal commitment to advancing women of color in the solar industry, Santiago-Mosier will invest the $8,000 C3E-awarded prize money in the next edition of The Solar Foundation’s U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study, due for release in spring 2019. This updated study will provide the latest data on women, people of color, and veterans in the solar workforce, along with best practices and model policies on diversity and inclusion. This study will also include a detailed section on women of color in the solar industry.

“Melanie is a force and we are so honored that she is choosing to use her award to support our research on a diverse and inclusive solar workforce,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation. “This award gives well-deserved recognition to Melanie’s tireless efforts to make the benefits of solar energy accessible to everyone. Her generous contribution will help us produce an expanded Solar Industry Diversity Study that helps move the industry forward.”

Pretty cool.

Santiago-Mosier has been involved in clean energy policy and advocacy for over a decade and is accomplished in clean energy advocacy before state legislatures and public utility commissions, winning legislation, regulations, and other policy matters that advanced solar and clean energy. Beyond her professional accomplishments, Santiago-Mosier has taken on more than ten volunteer leadership and board roles over the past decade.

Santiago-Mosier helped launch Vote Solar’s Low-Income Solar Access program in 2016, and today her work focuses on four objectives: policy analysis and research, thought leadership, partnerships, and advancing statewide policy campaigns to increase access and equity. This policy work is also centered in Vote Solar’s broader vision for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), which Santiago-Mosier has helped to lead. This work includes commitments to programs, partnerships and internal practices that help advance a more just energy system.

Today she’s the Program Director of Access and Equity, an evolution of the program to encompass the broader scope of solar energy’s ability to equalize growing inequality in the U.S. by creating domestic jobs across a variety of education levels, lowering energy costs, and improving public health makes it a powerful tool for addressing these pressing economic and social issues. In an era when economic issues are a top priority for a majority of Americans, connecting the dots between solar and economic opportunity will further accelerate our transition to clean energy.

“We believe that everyone should have the ability to participate in, and benefit from, the clean energy economy, and we’re proud to have Melanie at the helm of our work to make that possible,” said Adam Browning, executive director at Vote Solar. “Melanie earned this award for her unwavering dedication to maximizing solar energy’s potential as a force for social good. Her leadership building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive clean energy future is inspiring, and all of us that are lucky enough to work with her are very happy she’s receiving this well-deserved recognition.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Puerto Rico rebuild: Solar, efficiency projects underway at San Juan’s largest market

solar helps

Solar installation and energy efficiency upgrades at the Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras in San Juan, Puerto Rico, are underway, according to officials from The Solar Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and the municipality of San Juan. The Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras in San Juan is the largest produce market on the island, responsible for the livelihoods of 200 small business owners. Since Hurricane Maria, the energy situation has led to an unstable business environment, product losses, and fewer customers for these vendors.

The Hispanic Federation and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy have committed two grants totaling $1.1 million in funding for the project, which will also include installation of solar panels and batteries for the market. This work, being undertaken through the Solar Saves Lives initiative led by The Solar Foundation and the Clinton Foundation, is being done at the request of, and in close coordination with, the Municipality of San Juan. In addition, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy grant creates an apprenticeship program for local workers to learn skills related to solar installation, roofing, and electrical work, which will help promote local workforce development.

“Time of crisis call for us to reach out and forge alliances to pull resources together and achieve a common goal,” said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. “We are honored that the Clinton Foundation and The Solar Foundation have been instrumental in galvanizing this much need donation which will lead the way in transforming the largest produce market in San Juan and Puerto Rico. Having access to solar energy will ensure dozens of small business owners will not to be hostage to an unreliable electrical infrastructure. The way of the future is made possible today by those that believe we are all entitled to better life.”

Check out the Solar Builder Projects of the Year for 2018!

The first phase includes the installation of 700 units of LED lighting in the market. In the coming months, future phases will include the installation of 250-kW of solar panels on the market; a 475-kWh battery to help the market operate in the event of interruptions to the grid; and additional energy efficiency upgrades.

“This effort is directly helping the people of the Rio Piedras community – making the market more resilient against future hurricanes, while also more sustainable and less reliant on energy from fossil fuels,” said Kevin Thurm, CEO of the Clinton Foundation. “We acknowledge and appreciate the generosity of the Hispanic Federation and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the coordination of Mayor Cruz and the municipality of San Juan, and the work of all our partners through the Solar Saves Lives initiative. This project is a clear example of the progress we can make when philanthropy, business, and government work together.”

Since the initial announcement, the Clinton Foundation and The Solar Foundation have worked in close coordination with Mayor Cruz and the Municipality to carry out site assessments and finalize the planning and project management for initial phases of the project. As the damage to the market has been fully assessed, the cost and size of the project has become greater than initially anticipated. With the widespread devastation not only from Hurricane Maria but also from the 2017 hurricane season more broadly, there has been great regional demand for philanthropic support which has made securing funding for specific projects more challenging.

“This project combines so many efforts to support the Río Piedras community – driving economic development, lowering energy consumption, empowering small businesses, and promoting sustainability and resiliency,” said José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation. “These types of installations are a perfect example of the types of investments we need to make in Puerto Rico’s future, and the Hispanic Federation is excited to be supporting this incredibly important effort to install solar equipment and energy efficiency upgrades at the Río Piedras Market.”

These installations will be done by New Energy, and facilitated by The Solar Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, and Operation Blessing through the Solar Saves Lives initiative, a joint program formed in the wake of last year’s devastating hurricane season to coordinate the delivery and installation of solar and battery storage equipment to areas of urgent need. New Energy is providing the materials and labor for installation at cost.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Foundation awarded $2 million to fund solar apprenticeships for military veterans

solar foundation workforce

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) selected The Solar Foundation to receive a $2 million award to support its efforts in building an advanced and highly qualified solar workforce. The standout feature of this new program is its support of solar industry apprenticeships for hundreds of transitioning military veterans, preparing them for leadership roles in a rapidly growing industry. The program will also provide expert assistance to help the solar industry leverage workforce development resources and hire more workers from underserved communities.

The Solar Foundation was selected as a part of the Energy Department’s FY2018 SETO funding program, an effort to invest in new projects that will lower solar electricity costs and support a growing solar workforce. The Solar Foundation will work alongside other projects in the funding program to develop training programs that prepare the solar workforce for a more digital electric power system and enable veterans and transitioning military personnel to join the solar work-force.

RELATED: Six solar industry storylines to watch from Solar Power International 2018

This new program will expand on The Solar Foundation’s current and previous efforts to help build a pipeline of qualified solar workers across the country, through initiatives such as the Solar Training Network, Solar Ready Vets, and the National Solar Jobs Census.

“We’re committed to building a solar workforce that can meet the urgent challenges of the 21st century,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation. “This new program will help veterans and other job seekers develop advanced technical skills and become America’s future solar leaders.”

Working with industry partners, the new program will create solar industry apprenticeships for hundreds of veterans departing the armed forces, and develop a scalable model to train even more in the future. This effort will take advantage of the transferable skills that make service members outstanding candidates for careers in solar.

The new effort will be led by The Solar Foundation with partnership from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), and Cypress Creek Renewables.

The new effort will expand upon The Solar Foundation’s previous Solar Ready Vets program, which trained hundreds of transitioning military personnel for careers in solar. And it will draw from the insights in The Solar Foundation’s solar jobs research such as the National Solar Jobs Census, which is now in the field with a solar industry survey about the current state of the solar workforce.

— Solar Builder magazine

Here’s how 200 local governments have made it easier to go solar

solsmart cities

Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was designated as SolSmart Gold, marking the 200th local government nationwide to be recognized under the SolSmart program, which provides no-cost technical assistance to help communities make it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), SolSmart launched two years ago in April 2016. Local governments that meet objective criteria are designated SolSmart Gold, Silver, or Bronze, a signal that the community is “open for solar business.” Every local government in the United States is eligible to receive no-cost technical assistance to achieve designation by SolSmart.

“Local governments are on the front lines of our national clean energy transformation, taking bold action to cut costs and expand solar energy use,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation. “SolSmart has helped 200 local governments and counting reduce administrative hurdles to solar, making them more resilient, more competitive, and well-positioned to attract new jobs and economic growth.”

RELATED: Solarize programs a boon to solar installers, local communities

The 200 SolSmart designees are in 35 states and the District of Columbia and represent over 59 million Americans. The newest designees range from small towns such as Fairfield, Iowa; to cities such as Asheville, North Carolina and Shawnee, Kansas; to county governments like Suffolk County, New York. Major cities such New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, and many others have also achieved designation. The two states with the largest number of SolSmart designees are Colorado and Illinois, followed by California, Massachusetts, and Florida.

SolSmart designation recognizes communities that act to:

• Cut permitting costs and save money for customers. A cumbersome permitting process alone can add $700 to the cost of a single solar project. Gold-designated communities have reduced permitting time to no more than three days, which saves consumers and local governments time and money. For example, West Palm Beach, Florida started a “walk-through” permit process that takes as little as 15 minutes.

• Engage with community members to encourage solar development. For example, a SolSmart Advisor helped the cities of Goshen and South Bend, Indiana launch Solarize campaigns, which allow residents to come together to install solar at a discounted cost. Together, these projects led to nearly 100 new solar installations.

• Reduce zoning obstacles to solar. All SolSmart designees have reviewed their zoning ordinances for obstacles to solar development. Additionally, SolSmart Silver communities have ensured their zoning ordinances do not require special permits or hearings. For example, Brownsville, Texas adopted a zoning ordinance that will help facilitate the growth of new solar projects.

• Streamline inspection processes. For example, Pima County, Arizona launched a “remote inspections” process to provide same-day approval on solar and other projects.

• Encourage local job growth. Solar energy employs more than 250,000 Americans, and the number of solar jobs has nearly tripled since 2010, according to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census. A SolSmart designation positions a city or county to bring these jobs to the local community.

• Other actions SolSmart communities have taken include installing solar on government buildings, developing “solar-ready” construction guidelines, integrating solar PV with energy storage, hosting community-wide solar workshops, and training local government staff.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar jobs map update: 29 states see solar jobs increase, despite nationwide decline

The Solar Foundation today released an updated map on the number of solar jobs in every state, metropolitan area, county, and congressional district, revealing the geographic distribution of America’s 250,271 solar jobs. The interactive map can be viewed at SolarStates.org.

The new solar jobs map is a follow up to the National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the eighth annual report on America’s solar workforce issued by The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit educational and research organization. Along with the map, The Solar Foundation released 52 fact sheets on the solar workforce in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2017 found that nationwide, solar employment declined 3.8 percent, from 260,077 jobs in 2016 to 250,271 in 2017. At the same time, solar jobs increased in 29 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in major metropolitan areas throughout the nation. This growth took place in many states with emerging solar markets, such as Minnesota, Utah, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and others.

Solar Foundation jobs

“Our solar jobs map shows that many states and cities bucked the national trend and enjoyed significant jobs growth in 2017,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “As solar technologies rapidly become more affordable and abundant, solar jobs nationwide have nearly tripled since 2010. These jobs are in solar installation, project development, sales and marketing, manufacturing, engineering, and many other skill areas. In the future, states and localities should look to solar as a key strategy for building local economies and supporting high-quality careers.”

California remained the state with the leading number of solar jobs in 2017 (86,414), though jobs in the state declined 14 percent from 2016. Among states that saw solar job growth, the state that added the most jobs in 2017 was Utah, followed by Minnesota, Arizona, New Jersey, and New York.

Metro area analysis

Metropolitan areas and counties in diverse parts of the country saw significant job growth in 2017. The metro area with the highest total number of solar jobs was San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California, at 24,474 jobs, though employment declined 6 percent from 2016. Some of the metro areas where jobs grew significantly in 2017 include greater Provo-Orem, Utah (3,798 total jobs), New York-North New Jersey-Long Island, New York (12,038 jobs); Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn. (3,803 jobs); Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (7,204 jobs); and Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington (2,319 jobs).

Other metropolitan areas that saw job growth in 2017 include greater Denver, Colorado; Miami, Florida; Orlando, Florida; Tampa, Florida; Cincinnati, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; Charleston, South Carolina; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri; and Detroit, Michigan, among others.

“We are very excited to see so much solar job growth in Philadelphia,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “Philadelphia has taken several steps to expand solar development, including our work to achieve SolSmart Gold designation, and launching the Solarize Philly program. We are committed to reducing citywide carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 and transitioning to a 100 percent clean energy future. A solid solar workforce is key to achieving those goals.”

“We believe the transition to a clean energy future is one of the greatest opportunities of the 21st century for cities to improve community health, quality of life, environmental sustainability, and a vibrant and robust economy,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Our city is proud to be a part of growing solar jobs here in Florida and we remain committed to helping lead the transition to 100% renewable energy.”

Data for the National Solar Jobs Census is based on a rigorous survey of solar establishments conducted between October and November 2017. The Census defines a solar employee as someone who spends at least 50 percent of his or her time on solar-related work.

— Solar Builder magazine