Though job creation in the coal and natural gas industries has grabbed most of the headlines in recent months, the solar power workforce has been rapidly expanding for several years.
Solar power accounts for less than one percent of electricity generation in the U.S., but the solar power industry currently generates more jobs than the fossil fuel industry – many, many more.
In 2016, for example, there were an estimated 187,000 jobs in fossil-fuel generation compared to some 374,000 Americans working in some capacity with solar power technologies.
What has driven this explosive growth?
It’s been a combination of factors including the Solar Investment Tax Credit and the demand for solar technology.
Since 2006, the Solar Investment Tax Credit has provided a 30% credit for solar systems installed on residential and commercial properties. This tax incentive is guaranteed through 2022.
Increasing demand for solar technologies – combined with a dramatic decrease in the cost of the systems since 2010 and a wider range of financing options – has in turn created more solar industry jobs. Employment in the solar power industry has grown by 123% since the year 2010. In 2015 alone, solar power employment increased by 20.2%. The solar power industry is creating jobs 12 times faster than the general US economy.
While most of today’s solar power jobs are in installations in California, states like Massachusetts, New York and Texas are also growing their solar footprint and offering a number of manufacturing jobs, as well as positions in sales and distribution and project development.
Most solar employers offer on-the-job training on the installation equipment and safety procedures. Some pay employees to become certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) on their own time.
Additionally, more and more colleges and universities are also offering training programs and classes in solar technologies
In 2015, the Obama administration pledged to train 75,000 people for solar careers by 2020.
Today’s political climate is decidedly different from the last eight years under President Obama. Trump’s agenda focuses on oil, natural gas and coal – not renewable energy.
But the existing government incentives put in place by the former administration – combined with more affordable systems and a wider selection of financing options – should ensure the stability and continued growth of the solar power industry, which ultimately means more jobs.