Organization: The Solar Foundation | BW Research Partnership | GW Solar Institute
Report Date: 2015
Now in its fifth year, the annual National Solar Jobs Census is the nation’s only comprehensive solar jobs assessment produced by The Solar Foundation and BW Research Partnership, in partnership with the GW Solar Institute. Since the first Census in 2010, solar industry employment has grown by 86 percent resulting in nearly 80,000 new US jobs. Surveying thousands of solar businesses across America, the Census found that the industry now supports over 173,000 jobs. Accounting for some additional jobs in the component and materials supply chain, as well as the industry’s induced impacts, would bring the total employment impact for the US solar industry to over 705,000 jobs. And while salaries range significantly between different solar industry occupations, the wages paid to solar workers are competitive with similar industries and offer many living-wage opportunities.
- Not all Census respondents agreed about the outlook for the solar industry after the expiration of the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) at the end of 2016. Although about three-fourth of them said the ITC had “significantly improved our business,” nearly 40 percent of those surveyed believed that having only a 10 percent ITC after 2016 would not impact their workforce. This may because the large number of companies that work in sectors that don’t qualify for the ITC, a list that includes manufacturers, companies that primarily sell products and services abroad, and companies that sell solar pool heaters which don’t qualify for the ITC.
- The survey results may also be an indication that the solar industry is gradually seeing itself as competitive with most traditional generation sources. A Deutsche Bank analysis in October 2014 found that extending the 30 percent ITC beyond 2016 would allow solar to be on par with market electricity rates in as many as 47 states. The study, which assumed strong state policies that are currently present in only a handful of states, also found that even if the ITC drops to 10 percent solar will still reach grid parity in 36 states.
- The solar installation sector, which accounted for 88 percent of all new jobs in the past year and employs near 100,000 Americans, overwhelmingly felt that the ITC had helped their business. And 61 percent of solar installer respondents said they would probably have to lay off staff or subcontractors if the 30 percent ITC went away.
- The solar industry added over 31,000 new jobs in 2014.This remarkable growth rate is almost twenty times the national average and accounts for 1 out every 78 new job created in the US since the 2013 Solar Jobs Census.
- Within a few months, the solar industry will be providing two living wage jobs for each worker in the declining coal mining industry.
- The solar installation sector added nearly 50 percent more jobs in 2014 than were created in both the oil and gas pipeline construction industry and the crude petroleum and natural gas extraction industry.
- Survey respondents expect 2015 to be another strong year for solar and predicted that more than 36,000 jobs would be added over the next 12 months. This would mark the third straight year of growth over 20 percent.
- The solar industry now requires less than 15.5 jobs per megawatt of installed solar capacity, down from 19.5 jobs per megawatt in 2012.