Good news from the economic solar power front. The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit solar education and research organization, earlier this week announced that its third annual National Solar Jobs Census found that the U.S. solar industry employs 119,016 Americans, a figure which represents the addition of 13,872 workers and a 13.2% employment growth rate over the previous year. Based on 2012 data collection, TSF also revised the 2011 total jobs number from 100,237 to 105,145.
The National Solar Jobs Census 2012 measured employment growth in the solar power industry between September 2011 and September 2012. During the same period, employment in the overall economy grew at a rate of 2.3% (BLS), while the fossil fuel electric generation industry shed 3,857 jobs or 3.77% of its workforce (EMSI). Nearly one third of employers who responded to the survey cited the continued decline in component prices as the primary driver of employment growth. The report cites state legislation enacting Renewable Portfolio Standards or authorizing third-party system ownership and federal tax incentives as leading drivers of growth.
“The solar industry has grown at significantly higher rates than most other industries in the past several years, making it one of the foremost creators of new jobs in the United States,” said Andrea Luecke, TSF Executive Director. “Our census findings indicate that these new jobs are highly skilled in nature, including solar installation, sales, marketing and software development. These new solar industry jobs are sustainable, cannot be outsourced and play a critical role in our country’s economic recovery.”
The full report will be presented at the Clean Energy Workforce Education Conference on November 14th in Albany, NY. It will contain additional results, including a detailed breakdown of the overall employment figure by industry sector, providing growth rates for each. It will also include 2013 employment projections, information on hiring trends and, among other things,some state level data on company distribution.
The revision of the employment figure for 2011 was a consequence of the foundation and BW Research’s use of an improved version of the Solar Energy Industries Association’s National Solar Database, which made the method more refined and enabled the research to include more employers.
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.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.