Thanks to The Solar Foundation (TSF), individuals can now learn more about the solar industry in their backyard, their neighboring states and across the country. On April 18, TSF introduced a new interactive map that showcases the nearly 120,000 jobs in America's booming solar industry in 2012. This is the first time that the public can easily access the data on a state-by-state basis, and explore what parts of the solar industry are biggest—including manufacturing, installing, sales, project development and associated jobs.
Chris Meehan | SolarReviews
Thanks to The Solar Foundation (TSF), individuals can now learn more about the solar industry in their backyard, their neighboring states and across the country. On April 18, TSF introduced a new interactive map that showcases the nearly 120,000 jobs in America’s booming solar industry in 2012. This is the first time that the public can easily access the data on a state-by-state basis, and explore what parts of the solar industry are biggest—including manufacturing, installing, sales, project development and associated jobs.
The map holds some surprises. For instance, in two of the top five states for overall jobs, Arizona and California, the largest employment sector is in installation. While one might think that installation would be the largest segment in all the states, that’s not the case. In Pennsylvania, also one of the top five states for solar employment, the largest solar jobs sector is in manufacturing.
The new map and data builds on TSF’s National Solar Jobs Census 2012, which found that solar employs 119,016 Americans. This figure grew by 13.2 percent over the prior year, when its census reported that industry had 100,237 jobs.
“Solar is the fastest-growing clean energy technology available today and employment in our industry has doubled over the past three years,” says Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “The Solar Foundation’s map illustrates that solar is an economic engine throughout the U.S., creating jobs from coast to coast.”
California, the most populous state in the U.S.—and one of the most solar-friendly states—had 43,700 solar jobs and more than 2.9 gigawatts of solar installed, making it first in terms of overall solar industry jobs. That’s more than quadruple the number of solar workers in any other state, the SEIA observed. The organization also notes that there more people employed by solar there than there are stars and aspiring stars in Hollywood.
“The Solar Foundation’s map illustrates that solar is an economic engine in California. Pro-business policies that lower solar costs and increase demand are helping to drive solar job growth in communities throughout the state. Ensuring continued policy leadership will keep California’s solar industry delivering those much-needed economic benefits,” says SEIA’s Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president of state affairs.
While California has the most solar jobs, according to TSF data, it doesn’t have nearly as many solar jobs per overall employed people. That distinction goes to Arizona, which (with 9,800 people employed by solar) employs one out of every 306 people in the state. For comparison, California’s solar industries employ one out of every 419 people.
Arizona is now the second overall employer in solar jobs—partly because in addition to building out solar for its citizens, it’s also building a lot of giant solar projects to supply demand in California. It beats out Colorado, which was previously first in terms of solar jobs per employed person and second in terms of overall solar jobs in 2011. In fact, with one in 755 employed people working in solar and only a total of 3,600 jobs, Colorado fell to sixth in overall solar jobs and seventh in terms of solar jobs per employed person. In 2011, there were 6,186 solar jobs in Colorado, which led the country in terms of solar jobs per employed people. Since then, however, Abound Solar has shuttered its manufacturing facility and GE abandoned its plans to build America's largest solar manufacturing facility.
“These jobs figures demonstrate that the U.S. solar industry remains a powerful source of job creation,” says TSF Executive Director Andrea Luecke. “In comparing our estimates with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we find that California now has more solar workers than actors and that there are more solar jobs in Texas than there are ranchers. Economies of scale are also making our industry more labor efficient, requiring only one-third the number of workers to install a megawatt of solar today as it did in 2010.”
One thing most of the top 10 states in both categories have, states like Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Jersey, are strong renewable energy policies. This includes policies such as the renewable portfolio standards in California and Colorado, which require utilities to source at least 30 percent of their energy from renewable sources like wind and solar by as early as 2020.
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