For Immediate Release: December 18, 2020

Energy pathways program installs solar trees

Graduates of SMUD’s Energy Pathways program install solar trees in Sacramento public spaces

Energy Pathways program provides clean energy job training, shade and beautification

A year after enrolling in the first Energy Pathways program – a collaborative workforce development program – select local graduates began the installation of solar tree structures at the Simmons Center and the Greater Sacramento Urban League to increase the use of solar in underserved communities and provide neighborhood beautification.

Construction of the solar arrays began on December 16 and will continue through December 21. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, we are not having an event, but can schedule virtual interviews. B-roll of the installation can be downloaded here. The program, sponsored by SMUD, the Promise Zone Collaborative, Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce, Greater Sacramento Urban League (GSUL), the Sacramento Kings, Baker Energy Team, UC Davis Health, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, and Spotlight Solar announced the project in January.

The program consisted of a 5-week classroom course and hands-on training to learn the technical skills needed to work in clean energy jobs. After some COVID-19 pandemic delays, it has since graduated 25 students who have all been provided interviews with multiple employers in the solar industry. Select graduates have been hired to work on the solar tree installations.

“We’re proud to partner with area leaders on programs that benefit our entire community,” said SMUD Board Member Dave Tamayo, who represents Ward 6, which encompasses the Simmons Center. “This program helps develop a green workforce while also providing renewable energy and beautification in our neighborhoods.”

“It’s programs like these that create equity within our community, by providing the education and training needed to fill clean energy jobs,” said SMUD Board President Rob Kerth, who represents Ward 5, which encompasses the Greater Sacramento Urban League. The program will start up again in the spring and is looking for students ages 18 and up interested in gaining the hands-on technical skills needed to work in the solar energy field. Students will receive classroom education, resume support, employer interviews, as well as hands-on training on the installation of solar arrays.

The Energy Pathways project was created through SMUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, in partnership with the Promise Zone collaborative. The Sustainable Communities Initiative brings education, workforce development and renewable energy to underserved communities in Sacramento County. The curriculum is provided by National Energy Education Development (NEED), with support from SMUD and Baker Energy, and follows IBEW requirements.

On average, each solar tree produces 4,950 kilowatt-hours of solar energy, which reduces CO2 emissions by 3.4 million metric tons, the equivalent to planting 58 trees. They will be used to offset energy costs from local buildings and provide power and shade to visitors. “These artistic solar structures provide renewable energy, and bring benefits of shade, power outlets for visitors, and education,” said Craig Merrigan, CEO of Spotlight Solar. “Perhaps most importantly, they will encourage many thousands of people who experience them to consider their own energy and career choices.”

“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 the energy field.” SMUD has been a leader in the solar field, having developed the world’s first commercial-scale solar photovoltaic power plant in 1984; the first solar-powered electric vehicle charging station in the western United States in 1992; and the first net-zero energy community in Midtown Sacramento, featuring rooftop solar and batteries.

To date, SMUD boasts 210 megawatts (MW) of customer-owned rooftop and more than 170 MW of local utility-scale solar in its service territory. Over the next three years, SMUD will bring nearly 270 MW of new utility-scale solar online. And its recently adopted Integrated Resource Plan includes more than 1,500 MW of utility-scale solar over the next 20 years. Nearly 1,000 MW of this new solar is planned to be built locally. Over this time, SMUD expects an additional 600 MW of installed rooftop solar and over 200 MW of customer-installed batteries. These efforts combined mean that solar in the Sacramento region will continue to grow and thrive for years to come.

About SMUD

As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned, not-for-profit electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for almost 75 years to Sacramento County (and small adjoining portions of Placer and Yolo Counties). SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD’s energy is about 50 percent non-carbon emitting. For more information, visit

About Baker Energy

Dusty learned early on how to respect Mother Nature ... with thegoal to make the planet a better place for the next generation. When Dusty built his family home in the Sacramento region he was committed to going 100 percent green and was an early adopter of a custom microgrid. Dusty has always loved the Sacramento region, where he has run his baseball camp for 35 years. Upon retirement from MLB, Dusty chose to focus his energy on his family, sustainability and philanthropy. Dusty has leveraged the Baker Energy Team platform with the formation of Kool Baker Global to extend his renewable energy and job creation commitments throughout the globe. For more information, visit

About Spotlight Solar

Spotlight Solar makes great looking solar energy structures. These novel structures complement other sustainability measures that are out of view, showing advocacy for environmental stewardship where many people can see it. By making solar more visible and attractive, Spotlight Solar accelerates the adoption of solar energy. Spotlight is a certified B Corporation, which means the company is using the power of business for good. For more information, visit