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New Solar Job Statistics Released, But Other Renewables Are Growing, Too

Washngton, D.C. non-profit The Solar Foundation just released its National Solar Jobs Census 2013, whichis the fourth annual update of current employment and projected growth in the United States solar industry. Their data for Census 2013 is derived from a statistically valid sampling and comprehensive survey of 15,437 employers throughout the nation.

The Foundation’s conclusion: “Our research shows that solar industry employment has grown by an astonishing 53 percent — or nearly 50,000 new solar jobs — since we first started tracking them in 2010. Leading this growth are businesses in the installation sector, in which solar employment has grown by nearly 60 percent over the four-year period covered by the Census series, representing more than 25,000 jobs created in the sector since 2010.”

As of November 2013, the solar industry has grown to 142,698 solar workers, which is nearly 20 percent greater than the 2012 solar jobs figures and over ten times the growth that the overall U.S. economy experienced during that same time. Over the next 12 months, nearly 45 percent of solar establishments expect to add jobs, while less than 1.9 percent expect to cut workers, yielding an expected 15.6 percent growth in employment.

The study goes on to say:

Solar jobs increased nearly 20 percent since the fall of 2012, which is ten times the national average job growth rate. There are 142,698 solar workers in the United States, up from 119,016 in 2012. Not only did the industry exceed growth expectations, but the hiring pace has quickened, at a rate 50 percent higher than last year, suggesting that the trajectory for growth is even stronger than previously expected. Seventy-seven percent of the nearly 24,000 new solar workers are new jobs (rather than existing positions that have added solar responsibilities), representing 18,211 new jobs created. Since data were collected for Census 2012, one in every 142 new jobs in the U.S. were created by the solar industry.

Solar employment is expected to grow by 15.6 percent over the next year, representing the addition of approximately 22,240 new solar workers. Forty-five percent of all solar establishments expect to have added solar employees by November 2014.

Two-thirds of new solar hires are living-wage installation jobs. Installers added the most solar workers over the past year, growing by 22 percent, an increase of 12,500 workers. Installer jobs, which cannot be outsourced and earn an average of $23.63 per hour, are expected to increase nearly 15,000 next year. This represents a 21 percent year-over-year growth rate. And the report notes that, ”Nineteen percent of all solar workers are women, representing 26,738 solar workers, and one in six solar workers is Latino or Hispanic. With 13,192 U.S. veterans working at solar establishments across the United States, the solar industry is also exceeding the percentage of veterans employed in the broader U.S. workforce.

Solar is not the only clean energy job creator.

Wind: According to a 2012 American Wind Energy Association report, the number of wind-related jobs in the U.S. at the end of 2012, across fields such as development, siting, construction, transportation, manufacturing, operations, services reached 80,700. According to some other 2012 sources, there are 75,000 jobs across the wind industry,

Iowa ranked number one with their significant new wind capacity installed during 2011. Texas, the state with the most wind capacity installed, took the number two spot for wind employment with its continued growth in new wind capacity, established manufacturing.

Illinois, driven by one of the strongest levels of new wind installations during 2011 as well as a strong manufacturing sector, took the number three spot for wind industry employment in 2011. Ohio moved into the number four spot in 2011 with its strong base of wind manufacturing and supply chain jobs, which are now combined with new development and construction jobs. And "Colorado ranked number five in the nation, with an increasing number of manufacturing jobs in the state as well as large installation in the third quarter.”

The Environment Energy Study Institute(EESI) publishes a job fact sheet, and some highlights include:

Hydropower: Navigant Consulting estimated 200,000-300,000 direct jobs currently in the hydropower industry. This estimate assumes 2-3 full-time equivalents per megawatt (MW) to maintain, operate, and license compliance for the existing 100,000-MW fleet.

Geothermal: The Geothermal Energy Association’s latest estimate of the industry was 5,200 direct jobs as of 2010. Indirect and induced jobs were estimated at 13,100 jobs. Geothermal industry employment is expected to increase by 2,805 jobs this year. In 2008, GEA estimated that direct employment was 4,583 jobs, and induced jobs totaled 11,460 and by 2012, 25,000 jobs.

Biomass: The Biomass Power Association estimates that the biopower industry provides 14,000 jobs in the United States. In 2008, the U.S. biodiesel industry maintained 51,893 jobs. Approximately 70,400 Americans are employed directly by the ethanol industry, with an additional 400,677 indirect and induced jobs being produced.

And, let’s not forget energy efficiency. In 2008, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated that 380,000 people were employed in the energy efficiency services sector. Energy Efficiency Services Sector (EESS) is defined as “multi-disciplinary sector that address the design and construction of homes and buildings, and the installation, use, and maintenance of high-efficiency equipment and technologies in homes, buildings, and industrial processes. The EESS includes engineers, designers, economists, marketers, and trades people."

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), robust investment in energy efficiency could save $1.2 trillion by 2020, and the United States could create 1.3 to 1.9 million jobs by 2050 through the deployment of energy efficient technologies. Similarly, the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) projects 1.3 million jobs by 2030, according to the report “Energy Efficiency Services Sector: Workforce Size and Expectations for Growth.”

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), created by the G-8, is an intergovernmental organization that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and they released an international jobs study at the end of 2013.

“The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that 5.7 million people worldwide were employed in the renewable energy sector, directly and indirectly, in 2012. The largest number of jobs is found in biofuels and solar photovoltaic, 1.38 million and 1.36 million, respectively," according to IRENA. "The solar heating/cooling, wind power and biomass (heat and power) industries each employ several hundred thousand people. By comparison, biogas, geothermal energy, small hydropower and concentrated solar power are much smaller employers. Generally, better information is available for electricity-generating renewable energy technologies than for those relating to transportation and heating/cooling.”

What differentiates energy efficiency and renewable energy from the more traditional centralized fuels is that the energy generation, distribution, integration, installation and service is much more distributed and distributed evenly across the United State (or for that matter, the world). Whether it’s energy produced along electric transmission lines, electric distribution lines, natural gas pipelines and landfills, behind the corporate or facility fence, or on-in-or near a building — its decentralization (just like cellular towers) is just a natural jobs multiplier.

Just like we have climate change deniers, we have clean energy deniers — but this job growth is just too hard to deny.

FROM Environmental Study Institute (EESI), June 2013 -

Type of Clean Energy

U.S. Job Estimates

Relation to Industry



Direct, Indirect & Induced


200,000 – 300,000




Direct-spend at least 50% of time working on solar



Direct & Indirect



Direct, Indirect & Induced



Direct, Indirect & Induced


14,000 – 66,000


Fuel Cells


Direct & Indirect




Wave & Ocean Power




903,536 1,055,536



Lead image: Job market via Shutterstock


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