The Department of Energy has awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Solar Training Institute to teach sheet metal mechanics and contractors how to install solar equipment in houses and buildings. The two-year program will begin this summer.

The institute, a non-profit educational corporation sponsored by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association and the Sheet Metal Workers International, will hold classes at at six sheets metal schools throughout the country. About 300 contractors and 150 instructors are expected to be trained under this program, the Energy Department said.

"DOE is working with labor and industry to develop economically competitive, environmentally sound and high quality solar energy systems for rapid introduction into the marketplace", said Omi Walden, DOE assistant secretary. "A major step in meeting these goals is the availability of a sufficient number of trained personnel who can competently install and maintain solar systems."

"This is the first large-scale solar training activity involving industry and union representatives. We are confident it will be successful in helping to insure that professional installers are available to the solar industry when needed, as well as helping to remove a major obstacle to widespread public confidence in and use of solar."