How solar sector is using installations to drive workforce development

Solar Landscape’s latest project in Secaucus was part of STEP-UP program

The completed construction of a 556-kilowatt rooftop community solar installation by Solar Landscape at Principal Asset Management’s office in Secaucus will generate clean, renewable energy and social benefits for nearby communities.

It may also produce new careers.

The installation empowered Solar Landscape to train nearby community members on solar equipment installation, creating new career paths in clean energy as part of its STEP-UP program that aims to introduce job opportunities to those from underserved populations.

Since November, Solar Landscape has partnered with Edison Job Corps and national solar leaders GAF and Trinity Solar to introduce 29 New Jersey residents from low- to moderate-income communities to the skills necessary to become solar installers.

Jennifer McConkey, Principal’s managing director of environmental, social & governance and operations, said it’s a win-win.

“Financial inclusion and environmental impact are fundamental aspects of our commitment to sustainability,” she said. “Together with Solar Landscape and its training partners, the program is introducing community members to entirely new careers in clean energy. In addition, this program addresses critical sustainability and social goals to be a good neighbor to our communities and a clean energy model for the rest of the country.”

Solar Landscape CEO Shaun Keegan agreed.

“By hosting community solar installations, Principal is energizing communities in more ways than one,” Keegan said. “Thanks to Principal’s participation in community solar, trainees at Edison Job Corps and across New Jersey have new opportunities to find rewarding, well-paying, family-sustaining jobs.”

Keegan stressed this isn’t a one-time event.

As part of its partnership with Solar Landscape and others, Edison Job Corps recently created a separate workspace at its facilities in Edison specifically for solar installation training.

“For nearly 60 years, Job Corps has assisted underserved populations with career preparation, career development and career transition,” said Tony Staynings, business community liaison, Edison Job Corps. “Thanks to Principal, Solar Landscape, GAF and their partners, we are introducing our students to solar energy and providing them pathways to careers in renewable energy.”

In addition to being a catalyst for workforce development initiatives, the 556 KW installation will also advance the clean energy transition. Solar energy generated on the rooftop of this project will:

  • Provide solar energy at a discount to more than 90 nearby homes, without requiring them to install panels;
  • Save residents more than $20,000 in energy costs annually;
  • Avoid the creation of 478 tons of carbon emissions from fossil fuels.