United States solar jobs grew 25 percent past year

The Census reported 45% growth in Wisconsin solar over 2015 numbers (1,941 jobs), after showing little growth between 2014 and 2015.

The employment picture got a little cloudier for the Bay State's solar industry previous year, though MA still leads the nation in per-capita solar jobs and is second in overall solar jobs, according to a recent report.

California had the most solar jobs in 2016, followed by MA and Texas.

That's expected to continue despite President Donald Trump's pledge to boost the coal industry, and will make clean energy a reliable source of employment, said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation.

Growth rates were slower in other Western states where the solar industry is already well-established - states such as California and Arizona, where the industry grew by 32 and 6 percent, respectively. The number of solar jobs will increase by 10 percent in 2017, Luecke said.

Last year's solar market performance made 2016 the fourth consecutive year that US solar jobs grew by 20 percent or more, the report found. "With more than 67MW 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". The 25-percent increase was the largest measured in a given year since the census started in 2010.

In Pennsylvania, one out of every 4,177 employees in the state are employed in solar-related industries.

Solar power, like wind and other renewables, faces an uncertain future in the USA because of the Trump administration's strong tilt toward the fossil fuel industry and pledge to dismantle climate change regulations that have helped to boost renewables.

Utility-scale solar projects were an important contributor to hiring past year, Cantwell said.

Still, states such as Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska and Wisconsin (which voted for Trump) experienced a growth in solar jobs, as did 40 other states. "Unsubsidized utility-scale development costs are at parity with natural gas in many states", the Foundation says, which should keep demand for those kinds of projects strong, especially in states with renewable energy portfolio targets to hit, like in California or NY. The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 released this week may be just what the doctor ordered.

  • Wendy Palmer