Thanks in large part to the increasing attractiveness of rooftop solar installations, the solar industry added one of every 142 new jobs created in the United States last year, according to the annual National Solar Jobs Census released this week by nonprofit The Solar Foundation.
“When you install a solar panel, you create a local job that can’t be outsourced,” said Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity.
His company added more than 2,000 jobs in 2013 and has plans to continue adding to its payroll in 2014.
The Solar Foundation reported that affordable residential and commercial rooftop solar panels are driving the industry growth.
Solar companies reported to the organization that 51.4 percent of their customers switched to solar to save money. Another 22.9 percent said they were installing solar because it was competitive with utility rates.
With solar job growth at 20 percent for 2013, the industry outpaced national job creation 10 to one. The overall economy added 1.9 percent private sector jobs in 2013, according to the solar jobs census.
While the solar industry added 24,000 jobs, with more than 18,000 of them being brand new positions, the fossil fuel electric generation sector shrank by more than 8,500 jobs – 8.7 percent. And the coal mining industry added 0.25 percent employment.
The rapid growth in the solar industry isn’t expected to stall. Solar industry employers surveyed for the census said they expected to continue adding jobs in 2014. The census predicts the industry will add another 22,000 jobs in 2014.
That growth, like the growth the industry has seen over the last four years when it added more than 50,000 new jobs to the economy, will likely be driven by rooftop solar installations.
“More than 90 percent of Americans believe we should be using more solar, and fewer than one percent have it today,” Rive said in a conference call. We’ve barely begun this transformation, but as it advances, the American solar industry has the potential to be one of the greatest job creators this country has ever seen.”
Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter also spoke in the conference call, citing the importance of supportive policy and legislation that encourages this job-creating solar industry growth. Utility companies in Colorado and other states have been challenging net metering policies that allow solar customers to collect credits on their bills for the extra energy they produce during the day – something that could challenge solar job growth.
“The solar industry is a proven job creator,” Ritter said. “In Colorado and across the country we have seen that when the right policies are in place to create long-term market certainty, this industry continues to add jobs to our economy.”