First Ever U.S. Solar Jobs Census Shows Growth in Solar Workforce

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Environment Michigan

Environment Michigan today released a new report from the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit solar education and research organization. The report found that Michigan has the 4th most solar related jobs in the country with an estimated 6,300 people employed by the solar industry. 

The report is a first-of-its-kind review of the solar workforce in the United States, titled, “National Solar Jobs Census 2010: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce.”  According to the census, hiring in the solar workforce is on the rise. More than half of solar employers nationally plan to increase their workforce in the next year.

“The sun generates more energy in an hour than all the coal mines and oil wells in the world do in a year.  This report shows we are on the way to tapping the sun’s potential, generating pollution-free energy and a tremendous number of good, green jobs along the way,” said Dan Mitler, State Associate of Environment Michigan.  “Strong leadership from our state’s elected officials and our leaders in Washington will be critical to turning this solar opportunity into a solar reality.”

As of August, the National Solar Jobs Census 2010 identified more than 16,700 solar employment sites and 93,000 solar jobs in all 50 states. It also found that solar employers expect to increase the number of solar workers by 26 percent, representing nearly 24,000 net new jobs by August 2011. This rate is significantly higher than both the expected three percent net job loss in fossil fuel power generation and the economy-wide expectation of two percent growth over the same period.

“This is the first time anyone has tried to quantify solar jobs along the entire value chain by speaking directly with employers or projected with any certainty solar job growth over the next 12 months,” said Andrea Luecke, acting executive director of The Solar Foundation. “The fact that a national census is needed to examine the size and nature of the workforce signals that the solar industry is having a substantial and positive impact on the U.S. economy.”

The survey 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 National Solar Jobs Census 2010 was conducted by The Solar Foundation and Green LMI Consulting with technical assistance from Cornell University.

Much of this growth in the solar industry was made possible by a federal policy called the Treasury Grant Program. The program, which allows solar companies to apply for cash grants in lieu of tax credits they would otherwise receive, was passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The incentive allows companies to continue to receive federal support for solar projects despite the rough economic climate, and is set to expire at the end of this year.

“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 economy and our environment,” said Mitler.  “This growth was made possible by leadership of Michigan officials along with Congress and the Obama Administration.  We look forward to working with our elected officials to make solar a centerpiece of our nation’s energy policy and to accelerate the environmental and economic benefits Michigan gets from solar. “ 

“When Congress returns to Washington in November, we urge Senators Levin and Stabenow to make it a top priority to extend the Treasury Grant Program and work to pass long term policies to support renewable energy,” said Mitler.