Solar Employment Soars As Economy Lags

You may hear about the dearth of "green jobs," but statistics show that solar jobs are rising, even as the overall economy lags.

As of August, there are 100,237 solar jobs across all 50 states in over 5000 companies.

Despite the hoopa around Solyndra, the US solar industry  is gaining a greater share of the global market and is an economic bright spot in an otherwise sour economy.

The US is poised to install 1,750 megawatts of solar PV in 2011, double last year’s total and enough to power 350,000 homes.

100,237 jobs as of August 2011, according to The Solar Foundation’s "National Solar Jobs Census 2011: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce." The survey examines employment along the solar value chain and includes data from more than 2,100 solar companies.

  • 6.8% growth from August 2010- August 2011
  • 6,735 new solar jobs created from August 2010 – August 2011 in all 50 states
  • The overall economy grew only 0.7% during the period, and fossil fuel electric generation lost 2% of its workforce.

California continues to be the national leader in solar employment, with 25,575 workers. The other top 10 states are: Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Nearly half of all solar companies plan to hire over the next 12 months, and they expect to hire 24% more people – representing nearly 24,000 new jobs by August 2012, finds the Census.

"These survey responses merely reflect employers’ best estimates at expected new hiring, but it demonstrates a clear growth pattern for the industry and tremendous optimism by employers in the industry," says Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation. "Employers expressed similar optimism last year, but failed to meet their hiring expectations because of stalled legislative initiatives and continued policy uncertainty."

"The potential expiration of the 1603 Treasury program, along with current malaise in major markets such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, threatens to slow growth in 2012," says Shayle Kann, Managing Director of Solar at GTM Research. "Still, with increasing market diversity and the continued emergence of the utility-scale solar market, we anticipate that the U.S. market share of global installations will triple over the next four years."

New Jersey’s commercial market exceeded California’s for the first time because its strong Renewable Energy Standard and other incentives. It’s now the largest commercial market in the country, but that’s likely to slow because of new Republican Governor Chris Christie’s policies which favor fossil fuels. He plans to reduce the state’s Renewable Energy Standard.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) argues that Treasury Department grants should be extended for another year, saying it would create 37,400 jobs in 2012 and an additional 2000 MW of solar capacity by 2016, enough to power 400,000 homes.

Making the US a 100% solar nation would create nearly 10 million jobs and add as much as $450 billion to the economy. 

Here’s the Census:

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