Arizona Ranks 3rd in U.S. for Solar Jobs

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Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center

Phoenix – Environment Arizona today released new data showing that Arizona has the 3rd most solar-related jobs in the country with an estimated 4,786 people employed by the solar industry. Environment Arizona was joined in releasing the new data with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Arizona Solar Industries Association President Michael Neary, and First Solar Spokesman Alan Bernheimer.

The new data comes from an annual report by The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit solar education and research organization, which quantifies current employment and projected growth of the solar workforce in the United States. The report, titled “National Solar Jobs Census 2011: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce” shows that hiring in the solar industry is on the rise. Nearly half of solar employers nationally plan to increase their workforce in the next year, while only two percent expect to cut employment.

“The sun generates more energy in an hour than all the coal mines and oil wells in the world do in a year, and without dangerous pollution that puts our environment and health at risk,” said Bret Fanshaw, Advocate at Environment Arizona. “This report shows that solar jobs are putting people to work here in Arizona and across the country to repower our economy while protecting our environment and health.”

As of August 2011, the National Solar Jobs Census 2011 found that here in Arizona:

  • There are an estimated 4,786 people employed in the solar industry, ranking Arizona 3rd in the country for the most solar jobs;
  • There are 980 establishments employing solar workers.

“Arizona continues its ascension as a national and global leader in the solar industry,” said Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. “Driven by its abundant sunshine, highly-trained workforce and renewable-energy tax credits, Arizona is the place to be when it comes to solar energy location and expansion. This report is further evidence that Arizona is on the right track when it comes to fostering job growth in the solar industry.”

Nationally, the report found that:

  • There are more than 100,000 solar workers across the country at more than 17,000 different locations;
  • This represents an overall growth rate of 6.8 percent over the past year, nearly ten times higher than the national average employment growth rate of 0.7 percent;
  • The solar industry is expected to continue rapid growth over the next year, increasing solar workers by almost 24 percent, or by approximately 24,000 jobs in 2012; and,
  • This growth represents added jobs across all sectors of the solar industry – from installation and sales to manufacturing and trade jobs.

“The solar industry has grown into a major economic force with more than 100,000 employees,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation. “We expect even greater growth in the foreseeable future. But policymakers, workforce training providers, and the industry must work together to continue creating good jobs for skilled workers.”

The survey is an update of The Solar Foundation’s 2010 comprehensive analysis of the U.S. solar workforce and includes information about all types of companies engaged in the production, sale, installation, and use of all solar technologies, ranging from photovoltaics to concentrating solar power to solar thermal systems for the residential, commercial, and utility sectors.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2011 was conducted by The Solar Foundation, BW Research Partnership’s Green LMI Division and Cornell University.

“First Solar’s global headquarters, solar projects, and forthcoming manufacturing center are creating approximately 1,500 sustainable jobs in Arizona,” said First Solar spokesman Alan Bernheimer. “We are proud to be part of the solar economy that is creating high-quality, domestic jobs.”

First Solar’s new manufacturing plant is set to create 600 additional solar jobs in Arizona which were not included in the 2011 census.

This growth in the solar industry is the result of policies designed to promote solar as it scales up, including federal incentives, state rebates, and state utility requirements including renewable energy standards. Key federal incentives, including the so-called Treasury Grant Program, are set to expire at the end of the year.

Arizona’s solar business tax credits, as well as a renewable energy standard of 15% by 2025 have helped to spur the state ahead of others in the region and around the country.

“Arizona’s investment in solar energy is paying off with big dividends. We’re taking advantage of our greatest natural resource, the sun, to create jobs and improve Arizona’s economy. We’re also keeping our energy dollars here in Arizona, providing additional economic development benefits to the community. To top it off, we’re creating clean renewable energy, which improves our air quality and helps us all breathe easier,” said Michael Neary, President of the Arizona Solar Industries Association.

Ryan Hurley, AriSEIA Vice President and head of renewable energy policy at the Rose Law Group noted, “At a time when many companies and whole sectors were slowing down, the solar industry has maintained strong growth over the past 12 months and is projected to keep growing at a much faster pace than the overall U.S. economy. Arizona directly benefits from the 4,786 residents working in the solar industry.”

Fanshaw concluded, “We look forward to working with our state’s elected officials and leaders in Washington to make solar a centerpiece of our nation’s energy policy, and to accelerate the environmental and economic benefits Arizona will get from further growth of the solar industry.”