With unemployment at an all-time high, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is investing in solar workforce development and providing $2.8 million to the University of Central Florida’s Solar Energy Center (FSEC) to help lead those efforts.

FSEC was selected as one of nine national institutions that will operate the newly created Solar Installer Instructor Training Network.

The national network will address a critical need for high-quality, local and accessible training in solar system design, installation, sales and inspection. The training network is a five-year effort intended to create a geographic blanket of training opportunities in solar installations across the United States. Its goals are to accelerate market adoption of solar technologies by ensuring that high-quality installations are standard and to create sustainable jobs within the solar installation industry.

FSEC, a research institute at UCF, will operate the Southeast region of the seven-region network. The $2.8 million award from DOE will provide solar workforce development train-the-trainer programs for educational institutions in the southern U.S. and territories. FSEC will create a Southern Solar Energy Training Network by teaming with the following state and territory partners:

  1. Florida Energy Office
  2. Technology Assessment Division of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
  3. Arkansas Energy Office of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission
  4. Energy Division of the Mississippi Development Authority
  5. Alabama Energy Division
  6. Southface, Georgia
  7. Energy Affairs Administration of Puerto Rico
  8. U. S. Virgin Islands, Energy Office in Office of the Governor Southface, of Atlanta, will assist in the overall coordination of the program.

“We are very pleased to receive the prestigious recognition of being a U.S. leader in solar training and that the program will enable our partner institutions throughout the Southeast to offer solar training programs in their communities,” said project director David Block of FSEC.

The Florida Solar Energy Center, with more than 30 years of training experience in the solar energy arena, will collaborate with its partners to expand the existing model of its longstanding alternative energy training programs. Planned activities are to develop and disseminate model curricula, incorporate lessons learned and best practices, increase the capacity of educational providers to train workers in photovoltaics and solar water heating, and provide regional forums regarding instructor training. Other activities include the establishment of an advisory board, training students at local sites and evaluating the training.