For Immediate Release: January 8, 2020

SMUD partners with area leaders to bring solar, shade and beautification to Sacramento public spaces

Energy Pathways program provides job training for clean energy jobs

Today, area leaders from SMUD, the Sacramento Promise Zone collaborative, Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce, Greater Sacramento Urban League (GSUL), the Sacramento Kings, Baker Energy Team, UC Davis and Spotlight Solar announced a workforce development project that will increase the use of solar in public spaces, especially in underserved communities.

The project, which kicks off today at GSUL, will educate up to 200 students ages 18-30 in the hands-on technical skills needed to work in the solar energy field. Students will receive classroom education, as well as hands-on training in the installation of solar trees being placed throughout Sacramento.

 “We are proud to partner with area leaders on workforce development projects that increase solar use in our community and improve equity within our disadvantaged neighborhoods” said SMUD CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard. “The dual purpose of this program will provide training for jobs in a growing clean energy economy and increase our ability to harness the power of the sun for public benefit.”

The Energy Pathways project was created through SMUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative which brings education, workforce development and renewable energy to underserved communities in Sacramento County. The project begins with a 5-week classroom course and hands-on training to learn the technical skills needed to work in clean energy jobs. The curriculum is provided by National Energy Education Development (NEED), with support from SMUD and Baker Energy and follows International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) requirements.

The program aims to install solar trees at up to 11 locations within Sacramento beginning with GSUL, the Simmons Community Center and a location within the Twin Rivers Unified School District. Other sites are being evaluated for feasibility. Media will be invited to the solar tree installations.

On average, each solar tree produces 4,950 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of solar energy, which reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 3.4 million metric tons (MMT), the equivalent to planting 58 trees. They will be used to offset energy costs from local buildings and provide power 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.”

Project funding in the amount of $300,000 comes from SMUD and the Sacramento Promise Zone collaborative, including UC Davis, the Sacramento Kings, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency and the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce. Baker Energy and NEED will provide the workforce training and job placement while the GSUL will provide the training space. Local companies have already expressed interest in hiring from the candidate pool based upon the strength of the curriculum and partners involved. Spotlight Solar is the manufacturer of the solar tree arrays.

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 more than 70 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 power mix is about 50 percent non-carbon emitting. For more information, visit


About Baker Energy
Dusty learned early on how to respect Mother Nature ... with the goal 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