Cook County Selected for $1.1 Million Grant Award to Strengthen Solar Installation Opportunities for Business Owners and Workers from Historically-Excluded Communities

Cook County business owners and workers to be connected to business support resources and training pipelines leading to good jobs

(Cook County, IL) - Today, President Preckwinkle announced that Cook County was selected for a $1.1 million grant award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. With these funds, Cook County will partner with HIRE360 and OAI to establish the Chicagoland Solar Collaborative to identify needs and develop solutions to support the emerging market and increased demand for solar installation.

"I am grateful to the U.S. Department of Energy for ensuring that communities of color have access to the businesses and jobs emerging from new growth sectors like solar," said President Preckwinkle. “These federal resources will help advance the County’s commitment to addressing climate change and equity. The Department of Energy's investment in the people and businesses that call Cook County home will be felt for generations to come.”

“We see a clear opportunity to improve equitable outcomes in this sector,” said Xochitl Flores, Bureau Chief, Cook County Bureau of Economic Development. “For example, the demographics of employees in electrical wiring and installation are representative of the gaps we aim to fill - 92% are White, 6% are Black, and the remaining 2% are either another race or one or more races,” (Lightcast, 2022Q2).

Cook County is one of twelve organizations selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO)’s $13.5 million Advancing Equity through Workforce Partnerships program to facilitate the rapid deployment of solar energy technologies by growing and supporting an inclusive workforce with opportunities for union membership. According to the DOE, the projects in this funding program are demand-driven, worker-centric, leverage existing infrastructure and resources, are sustainable and replicable, and prioritize energy justice issues.

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is accelerating the clean energy transition, resulting in the creation of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and boosting our growing clean energy economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “That’s why DOE is working to jump-start solar energy careers, especially in underserved communities, developing the long-term structures needed to deliver these jobs over the next decade.”

According to the 2022 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, the solar industry employs over 330,000 people and added 17, 200 new jobs in 2021. The report also found that while the solar industry is more diverse than some other energy industries, the overall energy workforce lags in Hispanic (17%), Black (8%), and Indigenous worker (1%) representation. With solar power potentially contributing up to one third of the U.S. electricity supply, the U.S. Department of Energy recognizes the need for more equity and inclusivity in the industry.