Solar census forecasts tomorrow's job openings

The numbers are in and are looking good for the future of solar jobs in the U.S.

The first ever National Solar Jobs Census, shows steady growth in employment in the solar industry and outlines the specific types of solar jobs that will have openings in the coming year.

Based on a “statistically valid sampling of employers throughout the nation,” the report includes a number of statistics that confirm the rise of solar power’s influence on the economy. In the coming year, the Census projects 24,000 new jobs to be created. Jobs expected to see the most growth are for photovoltaic installers, solar-specific electricians, sales workers at wholesale trade firms, sales representatives or estimators at installation firms, and roofers with solar-installation experience.

Solar jobs nearly doubled from August 2009 to August 2010, for example, and more than half of solar employers expect to increase the number of solar jobs offered in the next 12 months. While California is home to 30 percent of the solar workforce, other key states such as Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan reported large numbers of solar companies and workers. Solar manufacturing firms employ the most workers, with an average of 24, while installation firms average 14 workers, and wholesale solar trade companies employ 4 workers on average.

The report, compiled by the Solar Foundation, a non-profit organization and non-lobbying education and research organization in conjunction with Cornell University and Green LMI Consulting, found that U.S. solar companies are adding workers at a rate far exceeding the general economy. Specifically, the Census found that, as of August 2010, 93,000 people were employed in solar jobs on 16,700 solar sites in all 50 states. In addition to present day data, the Census projects 24,000 more solar jobs will be added by August 2011.

“This is the first time anyone has attempted to quantify solar jobs across the value chain,” said Andrea Luecke, Executive Director of the Solar Foundation. “With the growth of solar capacity, we knew we lacked information as to where the jobs are and were going to be, so we attempted to fill that gap with a first-cut census that provides a baseline and tangible numbers to help us understand the size and scope of the solar workforce.”