Solar Is For Everyone

Solar companies, like GRID Alternatives, are changing lives and SEIA captured it on film during a job fair at Solar Power International in Anaheim, California, in September.

The U.S. solar industry employs 174,000 Americans nationwide, but this number is so much more than a piece of data. This number represents the people who are directly behind an energy revolution, whose stories encapsulate the very essence of solar’s character.

174,000 are transforming America. 

The solar workforce is diversifying our nation’s power grid — through the rooftops of your homes, your community’s solar gardens, churches and businesses, and through your utility’s large-scale solar plants. 

Their work updating America’s electric grid with 21st Century technologies, like solar, is offering consumers more choices and diversifying our power sources. 

But what 174,000 does not immediately represent is the growing diversity of people behind the number and their different stories. According to The Solar Foundation’s most recent Jobs Census, solar is for everyone.


When it comes to both ethnic and gender diversity, the solar industry surpasses the oil, gas and coal industries. For example, at 16.3 percent, the solar industry’s employment rate for Latino or Hispanic individuals is 3 percentage points higher than the entire U.S. employment rate for Latinos or Hispanics. Women also account for 21.6 percent of the solar industry’s total workforce.

With the ever-growing demand for solar energy now higher than ever, the workforce is projected to grow by more than 36,000 by the end of the year alone. And the industry is ramping up its training and recruitment opportunities to ensure its workforce continues to be as diverse as its consumers. 

In fact, the solar industry is committed to becoming the most diverse energy sector in the nation, as Americans from all walks of life take advantage of the benefits of solar and its cascading price tag. 

Solar already employs a higher percentage rate of veterans than the total U.S. workforce, but the industry upped the ante this spring by committing to having 50,000 U.S. veterans working in solar by 2020. 

Our industry cannot keep its commitment to provide well-paying jobs for more Americans if Congress makes a wrong decision on a looming federal policy. The solar investment tax credit (ITC) provides a 30 percent tax credit to commercial and residential solar users, which has helped the solar industry crack 22 gigawatts for the first time in history this summer. 

Under the policy, total U.S. solar capacity is expected to double over the next two years. But if the ITC is allowed to expire from its current levels on Dec. 31, 2016, 100,000 jobs could be lost nationwide. 

There is more work to do and more Americans who are eager to help solar drive America to its new clean energy future. Tell Congress 174,000 isn’t enough.

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Rhone Resch is the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar energy industry representing over 1,000 companies that manufacture, develop and install solar systems of all sizes and technologies. At SEIA, Rhone is responsible for leading the growth of the industry by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening R&D and educating the public. SEIA’s recent legislative successes include the 8-year extension and expansion of the investment tax credits for solar, creation of the Treasury grant program and the section 48C manufacturing tax credit, and expansion of the loan guarantee program for renewable energy. In the regulatory arena, Rhone recently led the industry through an adverse customs ruling eventually overturning the tariff, saving the industry several hundred million dollars. He has over 18 years of experience in the public and private sector working in clean energy development and climate change issues. In addition to serving as the Vice President for the Natural Gas Supply Association, Rhone has also served as Program Manager at the EPA's Climate Protection Division during the Clinton administration. Rhone holds an MPA in Management from Syracuse University's Maxwell School, a Master of Environmental Engineering from SUNY Syracuse, and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. He lives with his wife Lisa and two children in a solar-powered home in Washington, D.C.

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