U.S.: There are now twice as many solar jobs as coal jobs
un article par Tim McDonnell, Grist
Back in 2006, SolarCity was a small Bay Area solar energy
startup with a handful of employees. Before long, according to
CEO Lyndon Rive, the company was doubling in size every year
to keep up with voracious demand for rooftop solar systems.
Today, the company has over 9,000 employees spread across 65
offices nationwide; they’re are busy every day designing, selling,
and installing solar systems.
click on photo to enlarge
Similar stories are playing out at solar companies across the
country. The U.S. solar boom is taking off at breathtaking speed
– even though solar is still a tiny slice of the American energy
pie, it has by far the fastest growth of any energy source, and
it’s adding jobs apace. As of November 2014, the U.S. solar
industry employed 173,807 people, up 21.8 percent from a year
before, according to a new survey by the Solar Foundation, a
nonprofit research outfit.
That’s 10 times faster than job growth in the overall U.S.
economy, which was just 2 percent over the same time period,
according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Solar employment is
also outpacing job growth in the fossil fuel industry. Solar jobs
now outnumber coal mining jobs 2-to-1 and are quickly catching
up to jobs in oil and gas extraction, as well.
What’s behind that growth? Aside from the fact that the solar
sector is growing rapidly, solar is an industry that simply
requires a lot of boots on the ground. A 2012 University of
Tennessee study found that solar employs more people per
megawatt-hour of electricity than any other energy source.
That’s largely because of the labor needed to install new rooftop
systems every day, SolarCity’s Rive said. Installers make up
more than half of the jobs counted in today’s survey (other
categories include sales and manufacturing).
Don’t expect this kind of growth to last forever, Rive said.
Installation is becoming more efficient, and the industry is
expecting a slowdown in growth in 2017 when a major federal
tax credit is set to expire. The survey reported that of the 2,000
solar-related businesses surveyed, 73 percent said that tax
credit “significantly improved” business. U.S. manufacturing is
also continually at risk from cheap imported panels from China,
although part of President Barack Obama’s recent climate deal
with that country is aimed at resolving clean energy trade
(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article).
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