Solar continues to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S., which is borne out by the most recent National Solar Jobs Census, by the Solar Foundation and BW Research. Preliminary results of the new report released Nov. 2 found that the solar industry now employs 119,016 U.S. citizens across all 50 states, a growth rate of 13.3 percent over last year’s 105,145 employees. That’s compared to a national jobs growth rate of 2.3 percent over the same period as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The solar industry has grown at significantly higher rates than most other industries in the past several years, making it one of the foremost creators of new jobs in the United States,” said the foundation’s Executive Director Andrea Luecke. She said the report finds that the jobs are in a variety of areas, including solar installation, sales, marketing and software development. “These new solar industry jobs are sustainable, cannot be outsourced and play a critical role in our country’s economic recover,” she said in a release.
The Solar Foundation used Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) data in its National Solar Database to identify and survey solar companies. “This is what happens when government provides a stable policy environment—the private industry does what it does best—creates new jobs for Americans,” said SEIA Executive Director Rhone Resch. "The rapid growth of jobs in the solar industry clearly demonstrates that smart policies, including the federal investment tax credit, are putting Americans back to work. In addition to jobs, these policies are driving down the cost of solar and providing a clean, reliable energy choice for millions of homeowners and businesses.”
The Solar Foundation’s 2012 census measured industry employment figures between September 2011 and September 2012 and benchmarked the growth rate against other metrics, like the national jobs growth rate and other segments of the employment sector, like fossil fuels. The report said that over the same period fossil fuel electric generation industry shed 3,857 jobs or 3.8 percent of its workforce.
A main driver in the increased expansion of employment, was the continued prices drops of photovoltaics and components, according to The Solar Foundation. A third of respondents said that was their chief reason for expanding their workforce. States’ renewable portfolio standards or third-party system rules, as well as federal tax incentives were also considered major factors behind solar jobs growth.
At this point the Solar Foundation is only releasing the tidbits. It will present the full report at the Clean Energy Workforce Education Conference on Nov. 14. There it will break down the figures and will make its projections for 2013.