USA solar jobs grew 25 percent past year

This year's census found that the solar industry continues to outpace most other sectors of the economy, adding workers at a rate almost 17 times faster than the overall economy and accounting for two percent of all jobs created in the USA over the past year.

"Last year, one out of every 50 new jobs created here in America was a solar job", said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). MA came in second, with Texas, Nevada and Florida rounding out the Top 5.

Still, the National Solar Jobs Census 2016 documents the dramatic growth of an industry in less than a decade.

Forty-four states saw solar jobs increase in 2016, meaning the industry has expanded significantly beyond its traditional strongholds of California and Arizona, although California created the highest number of jobs. Project development jobs increased by 53 percent to 34,400 jobs, while sales and distribution jobs increased by 32 percent to 32,147 jobs. Overall, the foundation finds, some 260,000 Americans now work in the solar industry.

The industry's growth is not expected to be as fast in 2017, however - more like 10 percent.

Solar jobs tend to be pay well and enable people to earn livable wages with relatively little advanced training required, Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation, said.

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

However, state policies will be crucial in supporting continued growth in solar power deployment as well as jobs, Luecke said.

Many industry watchers don't expect that the new administration will be able to derail mature industries like solar and wind. Latino employment in the industry surged to 17 percent from 11 percent a year earlier.

Women represent a greater proportion of the solar workforce than in previous years, rising from 18.7% in 2013 to 28% in 2016. The figures in the report are consistent with numbers from the Department of Energy.

"You can't just take an axe to it", Luecke said, noting that her home state of Wisconsin, which helped secure Trump's victory in November, saw a fivefold increase in solar jobs previous year.

The news highlights how the US solar industry is becoming an important economic driver, and creating a substantial amount of jobs for American workers in various sectors like construction, sales, marketing and engineering.

  • Tracy Ferguson