Opinion: Solar sector offers jobs for state

It seems a week doesn’t goes by without someone in the media bemoaning the lack of job opportunities for young people in Vermont. While Vermont is an attractive place to live, we need professional jobs to keep our population rooted. The solar industry, while not new, has seen remarkable growth as costs have become affordable, and accessible programs like community solar arrays pop up. Turns out that deploying clean, renewable technology necessitates a significant workforce.
In 2014 there were over 1,500 good-paying solar jobs, lifting Vermont to the top in solar jobs per capita nationwide. Released last week, the National Solar Jobs Census found that one in every 78 new jobs created in the U.S.  last year was created by the solar industry. The same study is projecting 20 percent solar job growth in 2015. I believe it, given the growth I’ve witnessed at SunCommon in just the last six months. This is an opportunity for Vermont.
Having grown up in Rutland, it was tough for me to see it change from a good place to raise a family into the media’s poster child for Vermont’s drug and crime scene. The number of unoccupied downtown storefronts was discouraging.
What a wonderful change we’ve seen in recent years. Now, Rutland boasts a 95 percent occupancy rate of the storefronts. A major factor in the turnaround has been Green Mountains Power’s commitment to making Rutland the Solar Capital of New England. This initiative has brought new solar jobs and positive improvements including the Energy Innovation Center and many solar installations both residential and utility scale like the Stafford Hill Farm.
The jobs created and supported by solar are significant for our community and are growing rapidly. The future for solar is bright: almost as bright as the sun that powers it.
Rick Shappy
New Haven
Editor’s note: The writer is employed as a solar home adviser for SunCommon.

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