Senate Dems want to double size of solar training program for vets

Six Senate Democrats are asking their colleagues to double the capacity of a new Obama administration program that trains outgoing military personnel for the solar power industry.

Obama launched the program in April with a goal of expanding what started last year as a pilot program at three military bases to 10. It’s part of Obama’s goal of training 75,000 solar workers, including veterans, by 2020.

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The team of Senate Democrats like it so much they want it to expand. If they have their way, the Energy Department would get enough money to run the program at 20 military bases.

“Solar Ready Vets connects our nation’s skilled veterans to the solar energy industry, preparing them for careers as solar photovoltaic system installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar related occupations,” the Democrats wrote to Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids Hopes dim for mental health deal MORE (R-Tenn.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinHotel lobby cheers scrutiny on Airbnb GOP platform attempts middle ground on encryption debate Week ahead: Encryption fight poised to heat up MORE (D-Calif.), the leaders of the Appropriations Committee panel that sets the Energy Department’s budget.

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“We strongly believe that a program with a proven record of employing veterans in high quality jobs in a fast growing industry critical to improving our energy independence and reducing carbon pollution is a worthwhile endeavor,” they said.

The senators did not say how much it would cost to double the size of the initiative.

Solar power is one of the fastest growing industries in terms of employment in the country, with 10 times the job growth of the rest of the economy, the federal government says.

The Energy Department estimates that one out of every 78 new jobs last year was in the solar power industry and that those jobs will grow 20 percent this year.