The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and The Solar Foundation held a briefing on the 2014 National Solar Jobs Census. The Census found that the solar industry added 31,000 jobs last year, accounting for 1.3 percent of all new U.S. jobs, and representing a growth rate almost 20 times greater than the national average. Today, 173,807 Americans are employed in the solar industry, almost twice as many as in U.S. coal mining.
While Census respondents project that the solar industry will grow over 20 percent again next year, which would add about the same number of new domestic jobs as the much larger fossil fuel sector, speakers discussed how pending changes to federal and state policies may affect future growth.
The briefing also provided an overview of the changing demographic makeup of the solar industry. For example, veterans make up one in ten workers in the U.S. solar industry. The Energy Department representative discussed the recent announcement that the first class of Marines has graduated from their solar job training program, which prepares service members for jobs in the solar industry.
Now in its fifth year, the 2014 National Solar Jobs Census was conducted by The Solar Foundation and BW Research Partnership, with support from the George Washington Universityâs Solar Institute. The report drew on responses from 7,600 U.S. businesses in November 2014.
- Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director, The Solar Foundation (TSF), provided an overview of TSFâs 2014 National Solar Jobs Census, which covers solar jobs, trends, and wages. She highlighted the strong growth of the solar industry and projected continued industry growth for 2015 and well into the future.
- There are 174,000 workers employed in solar nationwide, and these employees work in all 50 states. A total of 31,000 jobs were created in 2014 alone (representing one out of every 78 new U.S. jobs), and 36,000 new jobs are expected in 2015.
- There are currently more jobs in solar than in coal mining [there are 80,396 coal workers according to the U.S. Department of Energy].
- The solar industry has experienced 21.8 percent growth since 2013 (substantially above the 1.1 percent growth rate of the U.S. economy as a whole), and 86 percent growth since 2010.
- Most solar jobs are in installation (55.8 percent), followed by manufacturing (18.7 percent) and sales and distribution (11.6 percent).
- The industry is becoming increasingly diverse, with minorities and veterans making up a significant portion of the solar workforce. Hispanics represent 16.3 percent of the solar workforce, and 9.7 percent are veterans.
- Well-paying solar jobs that cannot be outsourced are accessible to individuals without college degrees. The average salary for a solar installer is $24/hour, and it is $36/hour for a solar salesperson.
- California has by far the most solar jobs (54,680), followed by Massachusetts, Arizona, New York, and New Jersey.
- Nevada saw the strongest solar job growth rate in 2014 (146 percent), followed by Minnesota, Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas.
- Nevada also has the most solar jobs per capita, followed by Vermont, Hawaii, California, and Massachusetts.
- Detailed state solar jobs census reports are available for Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, New York, and Texas. Job numbers are available for all 50 states at www.solarstates.org.
- Matt Herzberg, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, SunEdison, explained that SunEdison is a global renewable energy company with offices in over 50 locations and more than 3,000 employees. It is both a solar installer and a solar developer.
- He emphasized the need for U.S. leadership in the solar industry. He suggested that solar jobs are readily available, but the industry needs stable policies that will reinforce growth.
- There is tremendous demand for solar. In 2013, there were more renewable installations than coal, nuclear, and gas installations (as measured in megawatts), and the numbers are projected to continue increasing.
- SunEdison has launched several solar jobs initiatives with GRID Alternatives:
- National Women in Solar Initiative – A national campaign to promote women in the solar workforce. This program will create training and networking opportunities for 1,000 women and provide affordable solar systems to over 1,000 low-income families.
- Realizing an Inclusive Solar Economy (RISE) – A $5 million partnership that will bring 4,000 solar jobs to underserved communities.
Continue reading or watch the entire briefing here…