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The US Solar Industry Puts People to Work in All 50 States

According to The Solar Foundation's (TSF) recently released interactive map, California has more solar workers than actors; more Texans work in solar than ranching; and the U.S. solar industry has more workers than the coal mining industry. Those findings and many more were discovered by The Solar Foundation team, led by Andrea Luecke, as they put together comprehensive solar job data about all fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The data were then put into an interactive map, screenshots of which you can view below.  You can access the map in its entirety, here.  The map shows how the states measure up in terms of solar employment, key solar policies and number of homes powered by solar energy.  TSF’s National Solar Jobs Census 2012 and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s National Solar Database were analyzed along with other sources of data to develop the map.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of the high ranking states in terms of installed solar capacity also proved to have the most solar jobs.  

The top ten states for solar jobs in 2012 were: California, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York, Texas, Michigan, and Ohio. In comparing solar employment estimates from today’s release with previous state figures that examined solar jobs in only a few states, six states – California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, and New York – are in the top ten for the third year in a row.  TSF also notes that many of the top ten solar job states actually have fairly low-quality solar resource.  New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan and Ohio all rank in the bottom 30 percent in the nation in terms of solar resource, according to The Solar Foundation.  Of course, Germany already proved that it is not necessary to have a robust solar resource to grow a vibrant solar industry – the county has the highest installed solar capacity in the world.

Similar to SEPA’s top 10 utility solar rankings, which we reported earlier this week, TSF’s map ranks states by total jobs as well as solar jobs per capita.  On a per capita basis, the top three solar states are Arizona, Hawaii and California.  For total amount of solar jobs, California leads with Arizona coming in second and New Jersey coming in third.

States ranking at the bottom of the list for total number of solar jobs include Wyoming, South Dakota and West Virginia.  On a per capita basis, the states at the bottom are West Virginia, Alabama and Arkansas. 

“Policies, or a lack thereof, are the biggest factor in determining whether a state will have a robust solar market and the workers to support it," said Luecke who explained that states at the bottom of the list need more policy support in order to bring more solar jobs to their regions. "West Virginia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, Alabama, and other states struggling to grow their solar industry face unique constraints, but one major thing they have in common is a lack of strong policy drivers,” she said.

The maps also breaks down jobs by subsector in each state, compiling data on installation jobs, manufacturing jobs, sales and distribution jobs, and project development jobs.

“These jobs figures demonstrate that the U.S. solar industry remains a powerful source of job creation,” said Luecke in a statement. Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association noted that employment in the solar industry has doubled in the past three years. Resch said that strong state solar policies – like renewable portfolio standards, third-party financing options, and net metering -- have driven the incredible job growth. 

“The Solar Foundation’s map illustrates that solar is an economic engine throughout the U.S. creating jobs from coast to coast,” said Resch.

Lead image: Solar Workers via Shutterstock

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