Solar power-related jobs in U.S. grew 25% in 2016

Solar industry generated $154 billion in U.S. economic activity last year

Solar Census jobs
Freedom Solar Power

New data from the Solar Jobs Census 2016 shows that employment in the solar-power industry increased by a historic 25% nationwide from 2015 to 2016, for a total of 260,077 workers.

The industry added 51,218 new jobs in 2016, a growth rate about 17 times faster than that of the overall U.S. economy, which grew by 1.45%. One out of every 50 new jobs added in the U.S. was created by the solar industry, representing 2% percent of all new jobs.

Growth occurred in 44 of the 50 states. And in 21 states, solar jobs grew by 50% or more, according to The Solar Foundation.

Solar employment now accounts for the largest share of workers in the U.S. power generation field, surpassing coal, gas and oil, according to a January report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  Coal mining accounts for fewer than 70,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.

solar jobs graphic The Soalr Foundation

The solar industry produced $62.5 billion in direct sales, and the broader labor impact that includes direct, indirect, and induced jobs, amounted to nearly 789,000 U.S. jobs, the report said.

The jobs paid more than $50 billion in salaries, wages, and benefits and produced $154 billion in total economic activity for the U.S.

“Renewable energy use translates to bottom-line benefits such as lower and more stable energy costs for GM in the long term,” said Rob Threlkeld, Global Manager of Renewable Energy at General Motors. “With more than 67 megawatts of solar housed at 24 facilities across the globe, we see the power of sunshine as an integral part of becoming a more sustainable company.”

In 2016, the five states with the most solar jobs were California, Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Florida.

Metropolitan areas also saw historic solar jobs growth, as the data in the Solar Jobs Map showed.

solar jobs The Solar Foundation

For example, solar jobs in the Cleveland, Ohio  area doubled, for a total of 1,632 solar workers in 2016. The number of jobs in the San Antonio, Texas area increased by 146% to 1,767 solar workers. Jobs in and around Albuquerque, N.M. increased 78% to 1,771 solar workers. And jobs in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. increased 40% to 1,215 solar workers.

In Colorado, the number of solar industry-related jobs grew 20%, from 4,998 to 6,004 jobs, and won praise from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

"Solar power not only enhances environmental protection and health -- it helps accelerate economic growth," he said in a statement. "We are pleased that the solar industry continues to find Colorado a good state for business."

Colorado ranks 10th in the nation for solar industry job creation.

California, ranked No. 1 in the nation for solar job creation, saw a 32% growth in solar employment between 2015 and 2016, from 75,598 to 100,050 jobs. Massachusetts, which is in second place, saw solar power-related jobs decline by 3% from 15,095 to 14,582 jobs.

Solar photovoltaic jobs George Washington University's Solar Institute

Workers install rooftop solar panels.

Since 2010, The Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census has defined solar workers as those who spend at least 50% of their time on solar-related work. The Solar Foundation has consistently found about 90% of those workers spend 100% of their time on solar-related work.

Solar jobs in the United States have increased at least 20% per year for the past four years, and jobs have nearly tripled since the first Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010. Over the next year, employers expect to see total solar industry employment increase by 10% to 286,335 solar workers.

“As part of our commitment to sustainability and goal to be energy independent by 2020, IKEA is proud of its 44MW of solar arrays atop 90 percent of our U.S. locations,” said Lars Petersson, IKEA U.S. President. “We are thrilled that our solar investment has helped contribute to rapid growth in the clean tech and renewable energy industry and the creation of quality jobs and a low-carbon society as a result.”

The Solar Jobs Census 2016 was part of the U.S. Department of Energy's U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) data collection effort that included more than 500,000 telephone calls and over 60,000 emails to energy establishments in the U.S. between October and November 2016. This resulted in a total of 3,888 full completions for establishments involved in solar activity in the U.S.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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