Solar industry seeing booming growth in business and employment


Solar industry seeing booming growth in business and employment
Solar industry seeing booming growth in business and employment

Throughout the solar industry, growth and jobs are booming both regionally and nationally, and recent predictions have led to further possibilities in the near future for tens of thousands of new jobs.

According to The Solar Foundation's most recent solar jobs census, released in April, the sector of the energy industry as a whole employs nearly 120,000 American workers, with solar employment growing by 13.2 percent in 2012 alone. That helps it rank among the fastest-growing industries across the country. These numbers only serve to reinforce the rapid, impressive growth seen by the industry in recent years.

More than 3.3 gigawatts of total solar power were installed throughout 2012, enough to power half a million homes and an improvement of more than three-quarters from 2011, according to CNN. Much of this growth has been attributed to the dropping price of the technology in the past two years, with silicon and increased capacity of components helping further. With adoption rates spiking, the most common area of the industry to see new employees added is that of sales - those looking to gain a further foothold in the industry would do well to focus on sales, as not only will companies be more welcoming toward products that can help to reduce their energy expenses, but success will help the technology reach even more markets.

Nationwide growth strong
In addition, the Solar Foundation revealed that not only is growth prevalent throughout the nation, but employment is growing in a wide variety of locations. The top states for solar technology were located all around the country, in the East, Midwest and West alike.

"These job figures demonstrate that the U.S. solar industry remains a powerful source of local job creation," said Solar Foundation executive director Andrea Luecke. "...Economies of scale are also making our industry more labor efficient, requiring only one-third the number of workers to install a megawatt of solar today as it did in 2010."

To add credence to that point, 31 percent of employers told the Foundation's jobs census that component price declines were the biggest factor influencing their companies' growth. Significant decreases in installment costs were noticeable in the four top solar jobs states in both residential and non-residential areas.

That growth is helping push adoption more than ever in modern society. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, commercial deployment of solar power has grown more than 40 percent year-over-year, with more than 32,800 facilities deploying a total of 3,380 megawatts this year alone. The second quarter of 2013 also saw major growth, up 15 percent quarterly with projections reaching nearly one gigawatt installed through the end of the year.

Regional growth even stronger
When it comes down to specific states, growth of solar power becomes even more evident. According to the Boston Globe, the state of Massachusetts had set a goal for 250 megawatts of the technology to be installed by 2017, but that target has already been reached - the potential estimate had to be raised to 1,600 megawatts by 2020 across the state. As a result, solar power represents 60 percent of the state's 20,000 renewable energy jobs. Its more than 12,550 employees will continue to grow thanks to the state's incentive programs.

What's more, if followed, further improvements across the nation could create as many as 50,000 jobs in the future, according to Clean Technica. It may be possible for the industry to see its total growth skyrocket if solar heating and cooling systems were adopted in a more widespread manner. Much of the current consumption of energy in America today stems from heating and cooling, though the new guidelines would help 8 percent of that to be generated via solar energy. That not only would create tens of thousands of new jobs but would potentially reduce current consumption of energy by 226 million tons of carbon emissions every year.

Visit Aerotek at Solar Power International, held at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill., from October 21 to 24 at booth 3008.