The annual census of US solar jobs is in - and as of 2013, the industry now employs about 143,000 Americans.
That's an increase of almost 20% from 2012, says The Solar Foundation, which conducts the National Solar Jobs Census. With the addition
of 23,682 solar jobs, employment grew 10 times the rate of the national average of just 1.9%.
During the same period, jobs in fossil fuels declined by 8.7%, shedding 8500 positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The solar industry now employs more than the coal and natural gas industries combined, according to the National Green Energy Council.
Over the past four years, the solar industry has added nearly 50,000 well-paying jobs, and another 22,000 are expected this year too. The vast majority of solar jobs are in manufacturing and installation - 70%.
“The study shows both aggressive hiring and clear optimism among US solar companies,” says Philip Jordan, Vice President at BW Research Partnership, a partner in the research. “Of particular interest are the continued high wages among solar installers, who earn an average of $20 to $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.”
"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,” says Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, which created over 2,000 jobs last year. He reminds us that when we "install solar panels we create local jobs that can’t be outsourced.”
Competitor SunPower employs about 1000 people in 10 states and is actively hiring hundreds more.
While high costs have always been the biggest problem for solar, that's also changing. Solar companies report that cost savings are driving clients’ decision making. In fact, 51.4% say they are installing solar to save money, and another 22.9% say they are doing so because costs are now competitive with utility rates.
Statistics on jobs across US states will be released in February.
Read our article, 2013: Record-Shattering Year for US Solar.
Here's the report: