Solar Power and the Workforce

a guest post by Bob Haughton, Vice President of Business Development at ONTILITY

When you talk to most people about the Solar Industry and the impact it has on America, you’ll probably get answers spanning the gamut from end user offsets of grid power to White House initiatives for Solar Energy.

When you talk to most people about the Solar Industry and the impact it has on America, you’ll probably get answers spanning the gamut from end user offsets of grid power to White House initiatives for Solar Energy. What you probably won’t hear is the effect that the solar industry has on the workforce in America. The effects are outstanding and it says a lot about the industry as a whole and where this can take us in the years to come.

The Solar Foundation (TSF), a non-profit organization, recently released its 4th National Jobs Census report, which shows remarkable growth in the U.S labor market as pertaining to solar energy employment.

There were a total of 142,698 solar workers in the U.S. as of November 2013. This is a 20 percent increase over 2012 figures and ten times higher than the national average employment growth rate. Solar project developers were the big winners in terms of job growth rate. In 2012, there were almost 8,000 solar workers who defined themselves as project developers whereas in 2013 that number jumped to more than 12,000, a 52 percent increase.

In addition, according to TSF, solar employment is expected to grow by 15.6 percent over the next 12 months, representing approximately 22,240 new solar workers. 45 percent of all solar establishments will add solar employees during this time period. Wages paid by solar firms are very competitive with the average solar worker earning wages comparably paid to skilled electricians and plumbers and higher than average rates for roofers and construction workers.

The solar industry also strongly employs veterans of the U.S Armed Forces, who constitute 9.24 percent of all solar workers – compared with 7.57 percent in the national economy. Perhaps the most interesting effect of the solar job creation market cites statistics showing that for every job created by the solar industry, between 1.8 and 2.8 jobs are created in other segments of the economy. A UC Berkley study validated its finding by examining other countries megawatt level installations and the subsequent impact on their respective economies.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy there are two main reasons why renewable energy technologies offer an economic advantage. 1) they are labor-intensive, so they generally create more jobs per dollar invested than conventional electricity generation and 2) they offer primarily indigenous resources, namely labor force, so most of the energy dollars can be kept here at home. So while popular discussion centers on the solar industry and its effect on the energy sector some interesting talking points need to be raised about how solar affects the U.S job market and the positive growth it spurs.

Bob Haughton Bob is responsible for multiple disciplines relating to overall company growth but focuses on leading the large scale national distributor accounts marketing effort as well as leveraging installation/distribution marketing and procurement of large scale projects nationwide. Prior to Ontility, Bob was President of Renewable Energy Resource Associates as well as Regional General Manager over the South Texas/State of Louisiana region for Standard Renewable Energy/Gridpoint. Bob received a BA in Architecture from the University of Houston and is a State of Texas and Nationally certified Registered Building Designer.

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