Clean Energy Investment Hits a Record High

Solar Panels and Sunflowers

By Arman Kazemi

January 21, 2016

Job growth in the U.S. solar industry in 2015 was 12 times higher than in the overall economy, a new report has found.

The Solar Foundation released its 2015 Solar Jobs Census earlier this month, reporting 20 per cent growth in the solar workforce for the third year in a row.

That amounts to 1.2 per cent of total job growth last year, or one out of every 83 new jobs in the U.S.

In fact, the solar industry is performing better in employment growth than the oil and gas extraction and pipeline construction sectors, which both shed jobs in 2015.

With 22,900 new positions, the installation sector was by far the largest employer in the solar industry. Installation work accounted for 119,931 total positions by year’s end, 77 per cent more than domestic coal mining.

But as demand grows for both domestic and commercial solar power, technological advances may mean price cuts as well as reduced manpower for mounting solar systems.

“In 2013 it used to take two days to install one system,” Lyndon Rive, CEO of American solar provider SolarCitytold “Efficiency has essentially doubled and in 2015 we were a little less than one system per day. I don’t think we’ll have that kind of leapfrog again but we could get close to 1.2 systems per day.”

Yet U.S. Congress recently extended the solar investment tax credit, which is expected to “reduce pressure to complete projects,” according to the report, resulting in “lower solar employment growth in 2016 but higher solar employment in 2017, resulting in greater stability in solar employment.”

Nearly 209,000 workers were employed across the solar sector in November 2015. And by November 2016, that number is expected to swell – aided by legislation such as the solar investment tax credit – to 240,000, 13 times the expected employment growth rate in the overall economy.

“Solar is surging,” former U.S. labour secretary Hilda L. Solis said in a statement. “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.”