Solar Jobs Continue to Outpace US Economy

Coming on the heels of the celebration–inducing 5-year extension of the solar investment tax credit (ITC), today jobs numbers were released by nonprofit organization, The Solar Foundation (TSF).

The six annual National Solar Jobs Census shows that the U.S. solar industry today employs 208,859 people, having added 35,052 in 2015 alone. This is a 20 percent increase in job growth compared to the overall national employment growth of 1.7 percent.

“Employment in solar has grown an extraordinary 123 percent since 2010, adding approximately 115,000 well-paying jobs. Our Census findings show that one out of every 83 new jobs created in the U.S. over the last 12 months was in the solar industry — 1.2 percent of all new jobs,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of TSF in a statement.

The report showed that demand-side sectors including installation, sales and distribution, and project development account for about 80 percent of overall solar industry employment. Installation firms such as Solar City, Sungevitiy, Sunrun and others make up about 57 percent.

All sectors, with the exception of solar manufacturing, grew over the past year according to the report, however the manufacturing sector is expected to add 3,800 jobs in 2016 based on industry construction activity.

2010-2016 Observed and Projected Solar Energy Sector Employment

Breaking down the numbers by solar project size shows that 63 percent of solar workers are in the residential sector, 15 percent in commercial and 22 percent in utility-scale.

Solar installers are paid an average of $21 per hour, manufacturers pay about $18 per hour for assemblers while sales reps and solar designers average about $27 per hour. Even at such competitive wages, employers report difficulty in finding suitable workers. According to the census, about one in five employers report that it is “very difficult” to find qualified employees.

“Solar is surging. Renewable energy deployment is on track to transform our world, helping to lessen our reliance on coal and other polluting fossil fuels,” said Board of Los Angeles County Chair and former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis. “Solar’s growth will continue to be robust in coming years. With wider solar adoption, thousands more high-quality jobs will be added to the economy that help propel us forward and advance our economic and environmental goals.” 

The solar workforce is larger than some well-established fossil fuel generation sectors, such as the oil and gas extraction industry, which shed 13,800 jobs in 2015 and now employs 187,200 people. The oil and gas pipeline construction industry, which employs 129,500 workers, lost 9,500 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics during the same period. The solar industry is already three times larger than the coal-mining industry, which employs 67,929 people according to JobsEQ 2015Q3.

Solar employers surveyed expect to add more than 30,000 jobs over the next 12 months. The expected increase of 14.7 percent would bring the count of U.S. solar workers to 239,625 by the end of 2016.

The sixty-one page report is available for download on the TSF website.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at

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