2012 National Solar Jobs Census Finds Installers Leading the Way

More than 8,500 installation jobs created in the past year, continued industry wide growth expected in 2013

ALBANY – The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit solar education and research organization, today released the full version of its third annual National Solar Jobs Census at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council's Clean Energy Workforce Education Conference. In early November, TSF announced that the Census found that the U.S. solar industry now employs 119,016 Americans, a figure which represents the addition of 13,872 workers and a 13.2 percent employment growth rate over the previous year. The three year Census series paints a stunning picture of solar job growth. Since 2010, employment in the U.S. solar industry has grown 27 percent - eight times faster than the overall economy during the same period, in which, employment grew by 3.2 percent.

The complete report released today analyzes employment in the subsectors that make up the solar industry. Installation remained the largest subsector in terms of employment and added the most new jobs. Installers now employ 57,177 Americans, a 17.5 percent increase over the revised 2011 figure. Sales and distribution jobs experienced a 23.1 percent increase, now employing 16,005 Americans.

"The National Solar Jobs Census 2012 illustrates that the solar industry, as a whole, is a dependable job creator and that solar employers are confident about growth in 2013," said Andrea Luecke, TSF Executive Director. "The growth by installers, especially at larger firms, signals that this subsector is heading toward a period of consolidation and maturation on par with other successful industries at this stage of the growth curve."

"The subsector information presented in the National Solar Jobs Census 2012 is providing the solar industry, policy makers, and the public with a greater understanding of the industry's employment makeup," said Philip Jordan, Vice President at BW Research Partnership, which collaborated with TSF and Cornell University on the Census.

Although manufacturing jobs decreased from a revised 2011 figure of 37,941 jobs to 29,742 in 2012, many downstream manufacturers are still reporting growth. "The solar industry is generating new jobs across the country. This year we have increased our internal workforce from 130 to 150 employees. In addition, growth in products whose manufacturing we outsource has created about 50 manufacturing jobs with our strategic manufacturing partners. We also signed a new lease on September 1st for a second, 40,000-squarefoot building, increasing our manufacturing area by 50 percent," said Peter Lorenz, President and CEO of Unirac Inc. in Albuquerque. "Unirac is on track for 80 percent growth this year. That's on top of a 100 percent increase in revenue between 2009 and 2011."

Other solar jobs, primarily in research and development and finance, experienced the largest growth rate – 46.1 percent – and now collectively employ 8,105 Americans. "We've experienced an increased demand for solar financing, and strong employment growth in the industry naturally follows," said Gianluca Signorelli, Vice President and Renewable Energy Finance Manager at Rabobank, N.A. "A case in point is our solar finance team, which is growing too."

Solar employers in all subsectors responded with optimism about future job growth. They expect to grow by 17.2 percent over the next 12 months, representing an addition of 20,000 new jobs. "Though we have found in the past that employment projections tend to overestimate job growth, the actual growth documented by the Census series has nonetheless been impressive. The fact that such a large proportion of employers anticipate adding jobs despite the difficulties facing the solar industry suggests that solar employment will continue its upward growth trajectory," added Luecke.

The Solar Foundation and BW Research used an improved version of the Solar Energy Industries Association's National Solar Database to refine the methods used in the Census and reach more employers. As a result, the solar employment figure for 2011 was revised up from 100,237 to 105,145. As in previous years, the survey examined employment along the solar value chain, including installation, wholesale trade, manufacturing, utilities and all other fields and includes growth rates and job numbers for 31 separate occupations. The figures in the report were derived from data collected from more than 1,000 solar company survey respondents, yielding a low overall margin of error of +/-1.5%. The National Solar Jobs Census 2012 was conducted by The Solar Foundation and BW Research with technical assistance from Cornell University.


Background Materials:

National Solar Jobs Census 2012:

EMSI Complete Employment 2012.3: http://www.economicmodeling.com/

About The Solar Foundation:

The Solar Foundation is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit, non-lobbying organization founded in 1977 that strives to increase the widespread adoption of solar energy through educational outreach, policy research, and market transformation. Read more at TheSolarFoundation.org.

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