The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently highlighted initial findings from The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) third annual National Solar Jobs Census showing that solar energy jobs have experienced strong growth in the United States over the past year, despite global economic challenges. The full National Solar Jobs Census 2012, with analysis of employment trends across the entire solar industry is scheduled for release on Nov. 14 by TSF, a nonprofit research institution located in Washington, D.C.
Initial results from the 2012 census found that the solar industry now employs 119,016 Americans across all 50 states, having grown 13.2% over last year during difficult economic times across the nation. In 2011, the solar energy industry employed 105,145 workers, while 93,502 were employed by solar companies in 2010.
Census participants named strong federal solar policy, such as the solar investment tax credit, as one of the most important factors driving growth of solar jobs over the past 12 months. Additionally, one-third of respondents cited the continued decline in solar energy prices as the primary driver of employment growth. State pro-solar policies, including renewable portfolio standards, and the popularity of new third-party system ownership models were other factors creating jobs.
“The solar energy industry is creating jobs in America when we need them most,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. "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.”
“This is what happens when government provides a stable policy environment — the private industry does what it does best — creates new jobs for Americans,” Resch added.
According to the 2012 census, solar job growth easily outpaced that of the overall U.S. economy, which expanded by 2.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, during the same period. In total, the United States has 5,700MW of installed solar energy capacity, enough to power more than 940,000 households. The industry expects to nearly double its growth over last year, adding 3.2GW of solar power online by the end of the year and another 3.9GW during 2013.
“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 Andrea Luecke, TSF executive director. “Our census findings indicate that these new jobs are highly skilled in nature, 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 recovery.”
The Solar Foundation and BW Research, with technical assistance from Cornell University, used an improved version of SEIA’s National Solar Database and additional data sources to refine the methods used in the census and to reach more employers. As a result, the previously reported solar employment figure for 2011 was revised upwards from 100,237 to 105,145. As in past years, the survey examined employment along the solar value chain, including installation, wholesale trade, manufacturing, utilities, and all other fields and includes growth rates and job numbers for 31 separate occupations. The figures in the report were derived from data collected from more than 1,000 solar company survey respondents, yielding a low overall margin of error of +/-1.5%.
These jobs numbers were a preview of the full “National Solar Jobs Census 2012” to be released on Nov. 14 by The Solar Foundation. The“National Solar Jobs Census 2012” was conducted by The Solar Foundation and BW Research with technical assistance from Cornell University.