Energy Careers Pathways 

SMUD is partnering with local leaders to beautify Sacramento public spaces and bring solar energy, shade and clean energy jobs to underserved communities.  

Solar tree

In January 2020, SMUD, the Sacramento Kings, Baker Energy Team, UC Davis, the Sacramento Black Chamber, the Sacramento Promise Zone and SHRA, the Greater Sacramento Urban League and Spotlight Solar partnered on a workforce development project that will increase the use of solar and renewable energy in Sacramento’s underserved communities while providing neighborhood beautification, technical and career readiness training and job opportunities.

Solar tree installation

Dusty Baker (bottom) and two students install a solar array near the Greater Sacramento Urban League building.

“We're proud to provide training for jobs in the clean energy sector, but it's much more than that. By training people to enter the clean energy workforce, we're also helping the environment, which benefits our community and the entire Sacramento region today and for generations to come” 

SMUD CEO & General Manager Paul Lau 

The SMUD Energy Careers Pathways program educates adults ages 18 and older in the technical skills needed to work in the solar energy field. Students receive classroom education, hands-on training to install solar arrays and, upon graduation, opportunities to interview with industry employers.

Solar tree installation

Pastor Les Simmons next to newly installed dual array solar tree at the Simmons Community Center.

Solar energy is the future,” said Dusty Baker, owner of Baker Energy Team. “There are immense opportunities with solar and we want to provide the training and skills needed for lasting careers in this growing industry.”

Baker Energy Solar Tree Install

Students help prep a solar panel for installation.


The program includes preliminary training on rooftop solar installations and installing “solar tree” arrays at multiple sites within Sacramento, beginning with the Greater Sacramento Urban League and the Simmons Community Center.

Solar Tree class

Classroom instruction on panel installation (January 2020). Photo courtesy of Julian Jeffery.

Classes are offered year-round.

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“These artistic solar structures create renewable energy while providing shade, power outlets for visitors and awareness of the benefits of solar,” said Craig Merrigan, CEO of Spotlight Solar who manufactures the solar trees. 

Urban League solar tree

SMUD is a leader in the solar field and our 2030 Zero Carbon Plan includes more than 1,500 megawatts of utility-scale solar.

The use of this dual array, 12-panel solar tree generates enough clean energy per year to:

  • Power an electric passenger vehicle over 18,000 miles (based on 3.3 miles per kWh)
  • Charge over 1 million smartphones (based on 5.5 watt hours per charge)
  • Illuminate 380 LED lightbulbs (based on a 9.5 watt LED lightbulb)
  • Replace the burning of over 4000 pounds of coal (based on 779 pounds per 1000kWh)
  • Equal the same carbon benefit as planting 70 natural trees (based on 11.7 trees per 1000 kWh)

The SMUD Energy Careers Pathways program was created through SMUD’s Sustainable Communities program which brings education, workforce development and renewable energy to underserved communities in Sacramento County.

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