National Solar Jobs Census 2015

Organization:  The Solar Foundation | BW Research Partnership | GW Solar Institute
Report Date: 
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Now in its sixth 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 123 percent resulting in nearly 115,000 new US jobs. Surveying thousands of solar businesses across America, the Census found that the industry now supports over 208,000 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 610,000 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.

Key Take-Aways: 
  • The U.S. solar industry currently provides opportunities for nearly 209,000 solar workers in all 50 states and is creating jobs at a rate 12 times higher than employment growth in the overall economy. 
  • The vast majority of these jobs are focused on solar photovoltaic (PV) electric generation for the residential market. Solar's demand-side sectors (installation, sales and distribution, and project development) make up almost 80% of overall solar industry employment.
  • Among policies and incentives, the 2015 Census found that 78% of solar firms noted that the federal ITC considerably or somewhat increased business prospects followed by 57% for state-level renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and energy efficiency resource standards (EERS); and 56% of businesses that expect the EPA Clean Power Plan to considerably or somewhat increase business prospects
  • Trends and policies have aligned to generate a major opportunity for stronger growth. They include the:
    • Declining cost of solar power;
    • Extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) until 2021;
    • Clean Power Plan caused reductions in power plant fossil fuels;
    • State renewable portfolio standards;
    • Other state and local incentives, and;
    • Global momentum from the Paris Summit (COP 21) on Climate Change.
  • Yet there remain barriers that could disrupt or slow growth:
    • Continued decline in fossil fuel prices, especially natural gas;
    • Legal challenges that derail the Clean Power Plan;
    • Changes in state net metering laws that discourage distributive power generation, and;
    • Worker skill shortages.
Key Facts: 
  • In 2010, the year the Census series began, the U.S. solar industry installed 929 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity. In 2015, over 7,430 MW were installed, eight times that of 2010. 
  • Solar jobs continue to be good paying jobs, the median wage for solar designers is about $27 per hour, while the median wage for all occupations in the United States is about $17.09 per hour.
  • Eight in 10 solar installation firms report their customers are located within the state, while project developers responded that nearly 65% of their customers are “in-state”
  • Over the next 12 months, solar companies expect to add a total of 30,000 new solar workers, representing 14.7% employment growth over 2015.