Veterans Support Construction of New Texas Solar Farm

A new solar power project in Texas has entered commercial operation, with military veterans a major part of the facility’s construction workforce.

The 163-MW Elm Branch solar farm, operating in part under a power contract between L3Harris Technologies and Lightsource bp, featured an apprenticeship program led by McCarthy Building Companies, the project’s EPC contractor, and Adaptive Construction Services (ACS). The program brought in about 50 veterans to directly support construction at the site, or complete their training.

Construction of the solar farm began in January of this year and created about 250 overall construction jobs.

Watch a video about the Elm Branch project and how U.S. military veterans were instrumental in construction of the solar farm in Texas.

“Veterans are a critical part of our company and our country’s workforce,” said Byron Green, Vice President, Global Operations, L3Harris. “This new solar project serves as a model of the benefits that shared goals among several organizations can create to support veterans, communities and the environment.”

Members of a program that helps U.S. military veterans develop careers in the construction industry reflect upon their work at the Elm Branch solar farm in Texas. Courtesy: Lightsource bp

The companies on Nov. 10 said the solar power agreement between L3Harris and Lightsource bp, for 100 MW of Elm Branch’s output, will help L3Harris meet its commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2026.

“At our Elm Branch solar project in Texas, we’ve come together with great partners who have a shared goal to help progress America’s sustainability,” said Kevin Smith, CEO of the Americas, Lightsource bp. “Together, we’ve built infrastructure that will reduce carbon emissions in the electricity sector and promote healthier, more resilient communities. At the same time, we’re helping veterans, who have done so much to protect America, with an apprenticeship program that’s the start of lasting careers for them in solar construction.”

The Elm Branch solar farm includes more than 360,000 solar panels across about 1,350 acres of land 40 miles south of Dallas.

The Elm Branch solar farm in Texas features more than 360,000 solar panels spread across more than 1,300 acres south of Dallas. Courtesy: McCarthy Building Companies

“Solar is providing excellent opportunities for underemployed or unemployed veterans and workers to embark on new rewarding careers,” said Scott Canada, senior vice president of McCarthy’s Renewable Energy & Storage group. “Veterans bring incredibly valuable skills and through our accredited apprentice training program we’re able to train them and provide a path for a long-term career in construction. We had great success with the program at Elm Branch and are implementing this on other projects around the country.” 

ACS, a veteran-owned and staffing organization, joined the project to implement its accredited apprenticeship program, which is free for participating veterans. The ACE program enables each apprentice to build skill through the combination of on-the-job training, mentorship, and technical instruction. The curriculum is designed to help veterans understand and develop the skills and knowledge essential to be successful on construction projects. It also supports McCarthy’s national craft workforce training initiative.

“Developing effective partnerships with employers and the public workforce system is critical to the success of any workforce development program,” said Nicolas Morgan, president of ACS. “The apprenticeships at Elm Branch provided veterans with an opportunity to gain skills needed to confidently work and contribute to a team, along with industry-recognized credentials that can translate into lasting careers.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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