All last year we were hearing that there were 120,000 solar jobs in the United States. If you’ve been wondering if that’s changed, you need wonder no longer.
Today, The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit solar research and education organization, released its fourth annual National Solar Jobs Census. The big news for solar: the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013.
That figure includes 23,682 solar jobs added last year. Solar employment grew 19.9% since September 2012, 10 times faster than the national average rate of 1.9% in the same period.
And even below the national average was the rate for the fossil fuel electric generation sector. Over the same time period, that sector shrank by more than 8,500 jobs (a decline of 8.7%). Jobs in coal mining grew by just 0.25%. These figures are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Survey (Not Seasonally Adjusted), Sept. 2012 - Nov. 2013.
“The solar industry’s job-creating power is clear,” said Andrea Luecke, Executive Director and President of The Solar Foundation. “The industry has grown an astounding 53 percent in the last four years alone, adding nearly 50,000 jobs. Our Census findings show that for the fourth year running, solar jobs remain well-paid and attract highly skilled workers. That growth is putting people back to work and helping local economies.”
“The solar industry is a proven job-creator,” said Bill Ritter, former Governor of Colorado and Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. “In Colorado and across the country, we have seen that when the right policies are in place to create long-term market certainty, this industry continues to add jobs to our economy.”
“Tens of thousands of new living-wage jobs have been created over the past year thanks to plunging solar technology costs, increasing consumer demand, and supportive government policies,” said Amit Ronen, Director of The George Washington University Solar Institute. “As the nation’s fastest growing energy source, we expect the solar industry will continue to generate robust job growth for at least the next decade.”
Solar employers are optimistic about 2014, expecting to add another 22,000 jobs over the coming year.
“SolarCity has added more than 2,000 jobs since the beginning of 2013; every single one in the United States. When you install a solar panel you create a local job that can’t be outsourced,” said Lyndon Rive, Chief Executive Officer of SolarCity. “More than 90 percent of Americans believe we should be using more solar, and fewer than one percent have it today. We’ve barely begun this transformation, but as it advances, the American solar industry has the potential to be one of the greatest job creators this country has ever seen.”
“The solar industry represents the new American dream – employment with a mission,” said David Field, CEO of solar finance provider OneRoof Energy, based in San Diego, California. “OneRoof Energy has had a more than 100 percent increase in employees since a year ago. We are at the very, very beginning of a fundamental shift toward clean energy, and clean energy creates jobs. Employees are provided job security, a decent salary and a mission to take pride in – knowing that at the end of the day they helped a family save money on their utility bill and improved the environment at the same time.”
Solar companies are reporting that cost savings are driving their clients’ decision making. They say that 51.4% of customers report going solar to save money, and another 22.9% because costs are now competitive with utility rates.
“The study shows both aggressive hiring and clear optimism among US solar companies,” said Philip Jordan, Vice President at BW Research Partnership. “Of particular interest was the continued high wages among solar installers, who earned an average of between $20.00 and $23.63 per hour. We also found higher than average employment of veterans in the solar industry, a sign that their high-tech skills are valued in this sector.”
“SunPower is proud to be a global leader in solar power technology and energy services, creating thousands of American jobs and injecting billions into the U.S. economy,” said SunPower CEO Tom Werner. “We employ about 1,000 people at facilities in 10 states, and are actively hiring hundreds more. Our network of approximately 400 dealers employs more than 6,000 across the U.S., and two of our major solar power plants last year created 1,300 jobs at peak construction. Solar is a competitive, reliable resource, and an economic success story for America.”
The National Solar Jobs Census 2013 was conducted by TSF and BW Research Partnership, with support from the GW Solar Institute. The report, derived from data collected from more than 2,081 solar firms, measured employment growth in the solar industry between September 2012 and November 2013. The margin of error of this data set is +/-1.3%, significantly lower than any similar national industry study.
State-by-state jobs numbers, including a more detailed analysis of the California, Arizona, and Minnesota solar markets, will be released in February.