Solar Industry Census: Jobs are Way Up

solar-jobsWhile unemployment woes continue to plague the country, and oil and gas drilling jobs along the Gulf Coast are disappearing rapidly, one industry has found a silver lining.

If you didn’t know, the silver lining around a cloud is caused by the sun as it seeps through the edges of a dark cloud. The silver lining in this case is no different. It, too, is caused by the sun.

The Solar Foundation today (Oct. 13) released the first ever solarjob census, which found that jobs in the industry are poised to growanother 26 percent over the next year, which amounts to 24,000 new jobsby August 2011.

In August of this year, the Foundation study discovered that morethan 93,000 people are spending more than 50 percent of their workdaystiling in the solar field at more than 16,000 companies.

“Until now, we had a very unclear picture of the number of peopleemployed in the solar industry,” said Tom Kimbis, chairman of the SolarFoundation.

There have been a lot of estimates and educated guesses made over the years about how many people work in the solar industry, Kimbis said. Researchers have used energy production figures andrevenue dollars to make those estimates. Last year, the Solar EnergyIndustries Association released an estimate that 45,000 people wereworking in the field.

But this census marks the first direct count of solar jobs, Kimbis said.

Researchers worked hard to make contact with employers and find out how many people were working for them.

Researchers received survey responses from 99 percent of theutilities that feature solar as parts of their portfolios, Kimbis said.

The foundation evaluated 31 separate occupations represented in thesolar industry from panel installation, manufacturing, and science tomarketing.

“Among other things, this study shows that investments made throughthe Recovery Act—including the $2.3 billion in tax credits to U.S. based clean energy manufacturing—are already generating positive results,”Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis was quoted in a Solar Foundation press release. “The solar energy sector is an increasingly important sourceof good jobs for Americans.”

The Foundation worked with Cornell University to ensure that thecensus was done accurately and without bias, according to the pressrelease.

“By examining the data from thousands of companies along the entiresupply-chain,” acting executive director of The Solar Foundation, Andrea Luecke, said in the press release, “the study shows that the solarindustry is having a substantial and positive impact on the U.S.economy.”

The study found that more than half of all employers in the solarindustry plan to increase staffing over the next year, the releasestated.

Kimbis said the Foundation looks forward to conducting the censussurvey every year, using this one as a baseline from which to measuregrowth.


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