The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), The Solar Foundation, and PathStone announced a $4.5 million Puerto Rican Solar Business Accelerator, Workforce and Small Business Development Program to provide business assistance and workforce development for Puerto Rican solar and construction companies.
The project, with support from the United States Economic Development Administration (EDA), represents a joint, public-private effort to train and place workers in solar + storage and construction. The announcement strengthens New York’s continued efforts to support Puerto Rico’s reconstruction and recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“Under Governor Cuomo’s steadfast leadership, New York has demonstrated an unwavering commitment helping families and businesses in Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA. “This collaborative program will equip Puerto Rican businesses and workers with the innovative training and tools necessary to build a more resilient island that is prepared to face 21st-century climate challenges.”
The multi-disciplinary program will increase economic resiliency in Puerto Rico with training and technical assistance for locally owned and operated businesses to help them increase operating efficiencies and to participate fully in major post-Maria reconstruction efforts. It will also provide workforce and training to prepare unemployed workers and the existing labor force for jobs that support these efforts as well as future jobs in the Puerto Rican economy.
“Since Hurricane Maria, we have worked in partnership with local installers to bring solar and storage to critical locations in Puerto Rico,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation. “We are proud to partner with NYSERDA and PathStone to lead this groundbreaking new program to help expand Puerto Rico’s solar industry and develop a highly qualified workforce.”
This program expands and integrates three fundamental areas of opportunity:
Puerto Rican Solar Accelerator will work collaboratively with Puerto Rican solar companies to improve financing, support a robust workforce pipeline, disseminate information on consumer protection and develop two solar and storage microgrid demonstration pilots.
Business Technical Assistance will focus on raising the capacity of indigenously owned and operated businesses to play an ever-increasing role in the rebuilding of the Puerto Rican economy with a focus on resiliency and job creation.
Workforce Development will screen, train and place workers in full-time employment within industries that are primarily engaged in the production, sales and installation of solar energy productions and construction.
NYSERDA is providing $30,000 in cost-share for seven qualified instructors from the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) to provide training in Puerto Rico. Additionally, NYSERDA will assist in coordinating the activity of the training providers over a 12-month period. NYSERDA is working closely with colleges and universities in the SUNY and CUNY systems to secure qualified solar instructors willing to volunteer their time and expertise to train in Puerto Rico.
The island-wide effort (all 78 municipalities) will operate out of PathStone’s Puerto Rico Central Office in Ponce and Regional Service Sites in Arecibo, Mayagüez, Naranhito, Bayamón, Juncos and Guayama, and will serve the residents of the islands of Vieques and Culebra.
The EDA, a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provided $3.8 million for the program which meets three of the EDA’s investment priorities — recovery and resiliency, workforce development and manufacturing, and the newly designated opportunity zones. EDA investment priorities support the agency’s mission to foster job creation and attract private investment to support development in economically distressed areas of the United States.
PathStone is a New York-based non-profit organization with 50 years of community development experience including workforce development, housing and technical assistance to small businesses. PathStone, with 45 Puerto Rican staff members on the Island, will serve as prime contractor and deliver workforce development and business technical assistance services.
“At PathStone we are extremely committed to maximizing opportunities for our clients. Thanks to joint efforts such as this, and after hurricane Maria, PathStone has managed to help hundreds of business owners and individuals in Puerto Rico to improve economic self-sufficiency and quality of life of individuals and communities through entrepreneurial training, technical assistance, financing access as well as workforce development activities,” said Alex Castro, COO of PathStone.
The Solar Foundation is a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization that leads several high-impact programs and initiatives including Solar Saves Lives (in Puerto Rico), SolSmart and the National Solar Jobs Census, among others. The Solar Foundation will manage the Puerto Rican Solar Accelerator with support from UPRM and Oxfam. Additional support is being provided by the Coastal Marine Resource Center and Sunnova.
This initiative builds on ongoing efforts to support Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria’s landfall in 2017. More than 1,000 personnel have been deployed to the Island and 4,400 pallets of supplies were collected from 13 donation sites across the state.
Additionally, NYSERDA worked closely with the New York State Department of Labor, New York Power Authority and SUNY on a larger portfolio of activities to support Puerto Rico including providing technical advice, sharing best practices on training methods and delivery and identifying curriculum and other training materials that can be shared with training providers. For more information about the recovery and relief efforts underway in Puerto Rico please visit the Governor’s Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands webpage.
News item from NYSERDA