Solar industry continues rapid expansion, added 35,000 jobs last year

If an employment catchword for the 1960’s was “plastics,” the modern equivalent might be “solar.”

Solar industry employment grew by 20 percent last year, adding 35,000 jobs, according to the non-profit Solar Foundation’s annual survey. The report estimates the solar jobs grew roughly 12 times faster than the national rate of 1.7 percent, and now employs about 208,000 workers.

Solar Foundation president Andrea Luecke said in a statement that the industry “has once again proven to be a powerful engine of economic growth and job creation.”

It’s the third straight year the industry has added jobs at a pace greater than 20 percent. The majority of the jobs — about 120,000 workers — are installers.

The breakdown:

  • Median wages for the industry range from sales and marketing jobs at $29 per hour, to installers making $21 an hour and assemblers $18 per hour;
  • Solar accounts for 30,282 U.S. manufacturing jobs;
  • The industry employs more workers than the oil and gas extraction industry and is three times larger than the coal business.

The foundation estimates another 30,000 jobs will be added in 2016.

Even as the census points to an optimistic future, the industry has taken some recent setbacks in Nevada. Changes to the regulated, solar pricing structure by Nevada regulators caused San Mateo-based SolarCityand Sunrun of San Francisco to cease operation in the state, costing hundreds of jobs.

The state has since said it would revisit the new regulations.

Photo: SolarCity workers install rooftop solar panels  (File photo by D. Ross Cameron/Staff)


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  • Steve Mckinney

    As long as the government subsidies continue….