Solar industry jobs continue to outpace other energy sectors with a workforce growth rate of 168 percent since 2010, despite a 3.8 percent decline in 2017.
The 2017 National Solar Jobs Census reports solar jobs increased in 29 states and the District of Columbia in 2017, including in many states with emerging solar markets. Kansas had a 15-percent increase and Missouri a 10-percent jump. States with significant job gains include Utah, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Tennessee. California remains the state with the largest number of solar jobs nationwide, but jobs in California decreased 14 percent in 2017. In Massachusetts, the state with the second largest solar workforce, employment decreased by 21 percent. A state-by-state comparison can be found at Solar Jobs Census.
“As with most trends, here in the Heartland, we typically lag the coasts whether it be hair styles or solar technology. So, even as some of the coastal states’ solar growth is slowing, we are just hitting our stride,” said Kevin Good, president of Good Energy Solutions, which he founded with his wife in 2007 in Lawrence, KS. “The most amazing thing about the local solar industry is that the market penetration is still under 0.1 percent of electric customers, so the opportunity for creating well-paying jobs is still in its early stages.”
The solar industry employed 250,251 people in the U.S. in 2017, about 9,800 fewer than in 2016. Last year was the first year that jobs decreased since the National Solar Jobs Census was first released in 2010. According to the report, the solar industry employs twice as many workers as the coal industry, almost five times as many as nuclear power, and nearly as many workers as the natural gas industry.
“After six years of rapid and steady growth, the solar industry faced headwinds that led to a dip in employment in 2017, including a slowdown in the pace of new solar installations,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “Uncertainty over the outcome of the trade case also had a likely impact on solar jobs growth. At the same time, the fact that jobs went up in 29 states is an encouraging sign that solar is taking hold across the country as a low-cost, sustainable, and reliable energy source.”
The Solar Foundation, a non-profit educational and research organization, issues the National Solar Jobs Census each year to provide comprehensive data on the U.S. solar workforce. This year’s census is based on a survey of 1,842 solar establishments conducted between October and November 2017.