Energy staffing buoyed by surging solar installations


Energy staffing buoyed by surging solar installations

Energy staffing occurring across the United States is being aided by a widespread increase in the installation of solar panels.

A report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research on December 14 indicated that the third quarter of 2011 saw more domestic solar installations than the entire year of 2009. Infrastructure capable of generating 449 megawatts of power was installed all over the United States during the period in projects that ranged from small household systems to larger industrial facilities.

The time period represents 140 percent growth above the same quarter in 2010, and caused the total solar installation amount for 2011 to rise past 1,000 megawatts, which is higher than the 2010 level of 887 megawatts. California experienced the largest fraction of these installations, with 44 percent of the total.

Much of the recent activity is being attributed to the Department of Treasury's 1603 program, which will expire on December 31 unless extended by Congress.

"The U.S. solar industry is on a roll, with unprecedented growth in 2011," Rhone Resch, President and chief executive of SEIA, said in the statement. "Solar is now an economic force in dozens of states, creating jobs across America. But our industry needs stable policy on which to make business decisions, and unfortunately an underlying mechanism for financing solar projects is scheduled to expire on December 31. To keep the industry growing and creating jobs in the U.S. we need Congress to extend the 1603 program."

The trend of increased U.S. solar usage is clearly illustrated in Arizona, where a clean energy company has received authorization to construct a 300-megawatt solar plant on federal grounds that exist in the state, according to Phoenix Business Journal.

The U.S. Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the approval of the Sonoran Solar Energy Project on December 21, the media outlet reports. The project will be a large photovoltaic power plant accessible from State Route 85.

Market experts predict that upon completion, the plant will be the largest solar project in the state and generate power for 90,000 homes, according to the media outlet. The project is expected to produce $1.6 million in megawatt capacity fees and $376,680 in rental fees per year for the BLM. The project will employ 358 people while under construction, and 16 people will be needed to run the plant.