Portland, Maine – Jobs in the solar industry are booming, with 93,000 solar jobs at more than 16,700 solar employment sites in all 50 states, according to a new report released today by Environment Maine and authored by the Solar Foundation. This first-of-its-kind review of the solar workforce in the United States found that solar employers expect to increase the number of solar workers by 26 percent in the next year – a net increase of nearly 24,000 new jobs – while economy-wide net job growth is expected to grow by just two percent over the same period.
“Jobs in clean energy are a ray of sunshine in the national economy, but there’s a lot more we can do to bring these jobs to Maine. The sun generates more energy in an hour than all the coal mines and oil wells do in a year. Maine has great potential for solar energy, but our leaders must act to remove the barriers that limit the development of solar in Maine,” said Environment Maine Field Associate Nathaniel Meyer.
National Solar Jobs Census 2010: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce examined employment along the solar value chain, including installation, wholesale trade, manufacturing, utilities and all other fields and includes growth rates and job numbers for 31 separate occupations. The report included data from more than 2,400 solar company survey respondents.
“The solar energy sector has enormous potential to hire thousands of workers across Maine and drive our local and national economy forward,” said Phil Coupe, co-founder of Maine-based ReVision Energy, which has offices in Liberty, Portland, and Dover, New Hampshire. ReVision employs 34 people and is currently hiring. “We’ve installed more than 2,600 solar energy systems since 2003, which save money and the environment while sustainably powering and heating Maine homes and businesses.”
The report found that more than half of solar employers nationally plan to hire new employees in the next year. The expected 26 percent net growth in solar jobs in the next year compares with a expected three percent net job loss in the fossil fuel power generation sector over the same period.
This past March, Chuck Piper and his son Danny opened the Sun Dog Solar Store in Searsport. “We started the store to bring Mainers energy independence and save them money, while doing positive things for the environment. Since our opening we’ve received a warm welcome from the community,” says Piper. “We’re confident that as our business grows, we’ll be hiring local talent to help us meet the needs of our customers. Overall I’m very encouraged — the whole solar industry is growing, and it’s going to be a driving force for Maine’s economy going forward. Keeping incentives in place will be important to maintain our current growth.”
Much of the growth in the solar industry nationwide was spurred by the Treasury Grant Program, a federal program that allows solar companies to apply for cash grants in lieu of tax credits they would otherwise receive. The program was passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, the incentive is set to expire at the end of this year.
Maine also must take bold steps to make solar more of a reality here. The state has done relatively little compared with other states that have seen rapid and substantial growth in solar. Coupe pointed out that stronger, more predictable state incentives would make it easier to plan for the future and make necessary capital expenditures.
“At a time when many companies and whole sectors were slowing down, this report shows that the solar industries really came off the bench to deliver a slam dunk for our national economy and our environment,” said Meyer. “Now it’s time to bring more of those jobs and environmental benefits to Maine through better incentives for the development of solar in Maine. In addition, Senators Snowe and Collins should make it a top priority to extend the Treasury Grant Program and work to pass long-term policies to support renewable energy,” concluded Meyer.
Environment Maine is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working to preserve Maine’s open spaces, protect clean air and water, and steer the state toward a clean energy future. www.environmentmaine.org