Solar Job Growth
The solar industry has seen tremendous growth over the past few decades and there are no signs it’s slowing down. Rapid growth for the solar industry means exciting opportunities for solar job growth. Last year alone, the industry added 51,000 jobs, bringing the total number of Americans working in the solar industry to more than 260,000.
Falling installation costs can be accredited for solar job growth over the past couple years. With the positive environmental and financial opportunities, and lower installation costs, both residential and commercial consumers are more likely to choose solar. In fact, new data shows that solar installers will be the fastest-growing job in America over the next decade. But installation jobs are not the only ones available. There are many different types of solar jobs available to suit different individuals.
Solar Job Timeline
Solar workers, according to The Solar Foundation, are those who spend at least 50 percent of their time supporting solar-related activities. The number of workers who meet that definition has increased drastically since 2010. Check out The Solar Job Census’ numbers for 2017 here.
The job growth is tremendous. However, the industry did experience a slight decline in job growth, dropping 3.8 percent from 2016 to 2017. Even with the overall decline, in 2017, 29 states saw solar job growth. States with significant job gains include Utah, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Tennessee. California remains the state with the largest number of solar jobs nationwide.
Solar industry growth can be largely be accredited to the falling prices of installation. The cost to install solar has fallen by more than 70 percent since 2010.
Types of Solar Jobs
Generally, there are two types of solar projects and thus two large groupings of solar jobs: utility scale and rooftop solar. The categories are driven by different policies and have different cost structures and job outcomes.
1. Utility Scale
- Large utility-scale (>20 MW) solar farms that sell wholesale electricity to energy providers.
- Utility scale jobs will have more versatility with their skills, according to research done by the University of California Berkeley – “we also note that workers whose skills are limited to rooftop solar installation are subject to the large fluctuations in the solar segment of the construction market, with little to fall back on, whereas utility-scale workers generally gain a much broader skill set through apprenticeship and can work on many types of green and other constructions projects.”
2. Rooftop Solar
- These are often smaller projects where the electricity generated is first used on site with the excess energy sold in the grid through a net metering mechanism.
- The increase in residential solar has led to an increase in need for rooftop solar jobs.
The solar industry also creates jobs for:
- Roof technicians
- Warehouse workers
- And more! Learn about them here.
While 2017 saw a slight decrease in solar jobs compared to 2016, the future is bright for jobs in the industry. As the U.S. economy adds a projected 11.5 million jobs over the next decade, solar installer jobs will grow by 105 percent – more than any other occupation. Wind turbine technician jobs followed at number two on the list, showing that clean energy jobs are driving the U.S. economy forward. The solar industry is already adding jobs 17 times faster than the rest of the nation’s economy, and as the U.S. Solar Market Insight report has said, the industry is expected to triple in size by 2022. Solar photovoltaic installers are also projected to surge in importance and offer expanded employment opportunities.
Find a Job in Solar
Are you interested in a job in the renewable energy industry? There are plenty of resources available to help you learn about and find opportunities:
- Energy.gov has resources to help find jobs, internships, training, and careers.
- Solar Energy International is founded on the mission of providing “industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower people, communities and businesses worldwide.”
- American Solar Energy Society also provides solar training.