Solar industry adds jobs nearly 10 times faster than rest of U.S. economy

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Solar industry adds jobs nearly 10 times faster than rest of U.S. economyThat’s according to the findings of The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2011 released Oct. 17. The report, now in its second year, found that the solar industry in the U.S. now supports at least 100,237 jobs and it grew at an annual rate of 6.8 percent; whereas the overall economy was only adding jobs at an annual rate of 0.7 percent.

The foundation released preliminary results about the report last month. However, more detailed data was not available until now. The report was conducted by The Solar Foundation and BW Research Partnership’s Green LMI Consulting division and Cornell University.

The foundation found that California, the most populous state and biggest state in terms of installed solar, had the most solar jobs, with 25,575 workers employed by the industry. But the nation’s second largest market, New Jersey, was ninth on the list in terms of solar employees. Colorado was second in terms of overall solar jobs, with 6,186 people employed throughout the industry.

“Colorado is the number one state in terms of jobs per capita then,” said Solar Foundation Executive Director Andrea Luecke. “It signifies and shows how important it is to the economy.”

The announcement that General Electric would locate its new photovoltaic manufacturing plant in Colorado was a case in point, she said.

“Colorado has really done quite a bit in terms of encouraging and enticing solar businesses,” Luecke said.

Colorado and California have solar carve-outs, renewable portfolio standards, and allow power-purchase agreements, among other policies that encourage growth.

“All of that is helping to drive the top states in terms of megawatts,” she said.

With 2,871 solar jobs, New Jersey was the ninth largest solar employer.

“It’s a little surprising that New Jersey is not ranked higher; they’re number two in terms of megawatts installed, but not that high in jobs,” Luecke said. “It shows that installed megawatts and the number or amount of installed capacity is not in direct correlation. About 50 percent of all the jobs are in the installation sub-sector, but the other 50 percent of the jobs aren’t.”

While the overwhelming majority of solar jobs are still in installing solar, the fastest growing sector of solar jobs was in sales and distribution, according to Luecke.

“We expect it to growth the fastest in the next 12 months,” she said.