The American solar workforce grew at a historic pace in 2016, a year when one out of every 50 new U.S. jobs was in the solar industry, according to the new National Solar Jobs Census 2016, the seventh annual report on solar employment issued by The Solar Foundation.
The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 found that solar industry employment growth outpaced the overall U.S. economy by 17 times as it increased by over 51,000 jobs, for a total of 260,077 U.S. solar workers. The solar workforce grew by 25% over 2015, the largest annual growth percentage since The Solar Foundation’s first National Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.
The number of solar jobs increased in 44 of the 50 states in 2016, showing that solar industry growth is truly a nationwide phenomenon. The state with the highest total number of solar jobs in 2016 was California, followed by Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada and Florida. A complete list of the number of solar jobs by state, along with state growth rates over 2015, can be found at SolarJobsCensus.org.
“With a near tripling of solar jobs since 2010, the solar industry is an American success story that has created hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation. “In 2016, we saw a dramatic increase in the solar workforce across the nation, thanks to a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations. More than ever, it’s clear that solar energy is a low-cost, reliable, super-abundant American energy source that is driving economic growth, strengthening businesses and making our cities smarter and more resilient.”
Solar job growth in 2016 took place in all job sectors, including a 26% growth in manufacturing companies to 38,121 jobs nationwide. Installation jobs increased by 14% to a total of 137,133 jobs. Project development jobs increased by 53% to 34,400 jobs, while sales and distribution jobs increased by 32% to 32,147 jobs.
Elected officials praised the report
“Solar is an important part of our ever-expanding clean energy economy in Massachusetts, supporting thousands of high-skilled careers across the Commonwealth,” said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. “Through the continued development of solar incentive programs, Massachusetts is positioned to double the amount of solar for half the cost to ratepayers and maintain our position as one of the best states in the country for energy diversity.”
“More and more business leaders and investors recognize that climate change presents both risks and opportunities, but they need better information to make informed decisions. The Solar Jobs Census helps provide that,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P., philanthropist and three-term mayor of New York City.
Nine percent of solar workers nationwide are veterans, compared to 7% in the overall U.S. workforce. Census 2016 also found that the percentage of solar workers who are women increased from 24% in 2015 to 28% in 2016, the percentage of African-American solar workers increased from 5% to 7%, and the percentage of Latino/Hispanic solar workers increased from 11% to 17%.
“It’s really a wide range of people that get hired into this industry, everybody from certified and licensed engineers to those who first learned about a solar project when we were building one in their area,” said George Hershman, senior vice president and general manager at Swinerton Renewable Energy. “A great aspect of this business is that it isn’t an exclusionary trade. It’s a teachable job that can create opportunity for people and give them a skill.”
Corporations are making the shift to solar
“Renewable energy use translates to bottom-line benefits such as lower and more stable energy costs for GM in the long term,” said Rob Threlkeld, global manager of renewable energy at General Motors. “With more than 67 megawatts of solar housed at 24 facilities across the globe, we see the power of sunshine as an integral part of becoming a more sustainable company.”
“As one of the world’s largest owners of rooftops, Prologis is committed to leveraging its portfolio and capabilities to host solar and other clean energy technologies,” said Matt Singleton, vice president for global energy and development at Prologis. “As of year-end 2016, nearly 165 MW of rooftop solar is hosted within our global portfolio of modern industrial real estate assets. Increased solar deployment is one important tool in working to address climate change, and one that simultaneously spurs job creation, as shown by The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census.”
“As part of our commitment to sustainability and goal to be energy independent by 2020, IKEA is proud of its 44 MW of solar arrays atop 90% of our U.S. locations,” said Lars Petersson, IKEA U.S. president. “We are thrilled that our solar investment has helped contribute to rapid growth in the clean tech and renewable energy industry ¾ and the creation of quality jobs and a low-carbon society as a result.”
Since 2010, The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census has defined solar workers as those who spend at least 50% of their time on solar-related work. The Solar Foundation has consistently found that approximately 90% of these workers spend 100% of their time on solar-related work. This year’s Census was part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) data collection effort that included more than 500,000 telephone calls and over 60,000 emails to energy establishments in the U.S. between October and November 2016. This resulted in a total of 3,888 full completions for establishments involved in solar activity in the U.S.
The complete National Solar Jobs Census 2016 can be found at SolarJobsCensus.org.
News item from The Solar Foundation