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A recent post by YaShekia King argues green jobs are needed to slow global warming. If 2012 is any indication, solar energy is where we’ll see many of those jobs.
The Solar Foundation recently released its 3rd annual National Solar Jobs Census, which found the solar sector added 13,872 workers this – a 13.2 percent increase in jobs over 2011. The report also projects continued strong job growth in solar in 2013.
Here are three things we learned from the solar jobs report:
#1: Solar Installers are Leading the Way
Solar installers account for more than 57,000 solar workers in the United States, making the solar installation subsector the industries single largest segment. Solar installers also added the most new solar workers in 2012, according to the census. Firms involved in solar installation plan to add more than 11,700 employees in the next 12 months – good news for the energy jobs market.
By comparison, companies involved in fossil fuel electric generation cut their workforces by 3.77% between 2011 and 2012. Coal mining saw close to a 1% workforce reduction. Solar job creation surpassed other energy subsectors, too.
#2: Low Cost of Solar Panels and Other Solar Products Drove Job Growth
The dramatic decrease in the cost of solar products was the major factor behind the solar sector’s success. The average price for silicon PV modules in Q2 was 44% less than at the same time last year. The average installed cost of solar fell 33% between Q2 2011 and Q2 2012. Plummeting prices – driven in part by unfair competition from Chinese imports – drove consumer demand.
Consider this: Installed costs for solar closed in on $1/W this year – making the price of solar competitive with wholesale electricity from conventional energy sources. With competitive pricing comes continue growth in solar deployment and solar jobs.
#3: Sound Public Policy and Improved Consumer Education Are Key to Solar’s Continued Boom
According to the National Solar Jobs Census, solar employers listed federal tax incentives for solar investment as the top driver of solar industry and employment growth. If lawmakers wish to encourage continued investment, there needs to be a long-term commitment to incentives and policies that attract development.
For their part, solar companies need to improve their education efforts with consumers. Barriers still exist in the form of lack of understanding about solar product choices and the many benefits of solar technologies. Consumers also have many questions about the costs of solar panels and the federal, state and local solar incentives available. To the extent solar firms improve their customer communications, growth can be expected to continue.
About the Author: Ryan McNeill is president of Renewable Energy Corporation, a Maryland solar installer.
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