California, the state that the Hollywood film industry calls home, can boast 43,700 paying jobs in the solar industry in 2012, versus only 32,300 paid actors. Texas clocked in with 3,200 solar jobs, in comparison to the state’s 270 to 2,410 ranchers. And across the entire nation, 119,000 Americans were employed by the solar industry in 2012, versus only 87,500 by the coal mining industry.
All that’s according to the Solar Foundation (TSF), which compiled its 2012 survey of solar jobs in the United States several months ago, and just released the numbers via a new interactive map. That map also provides info on each state including solar jobs per capita, number of solar companies, number of solar-powered homes, and the legal status of third-party ownership.
The Solar Foundation’s announcement contains further details:
“In comparing our estimates with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we find that California now has more solar workers than actors and that there are more solar jobs in Texas than there are ranchers. Economies of scale are also making our industry more labor efficient, requiring only one-third the number of workers to install a megawatt of solar today as it did in 2010,” [said Andrea Luecke, Solar Foundation Executive Director.]
The top ten states for solar jobs in 2012 were: California, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York, Texas, Michigan, and Ohio. In comparing solar employment estimates from today’s release with previous state figures that examined solar jobs in only a few states, six states – California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, and New York – are in the top ten for the third year in a row. Many of the highest-ranked solar jobs states are also those with the greatest cumulative installed capacity in the nation.
TSF’s work also determined that several of the top ten states — New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and Ohio — actually rank in the bottom 30 percent of states in terms of available sunlight. The strong industry presence despite a seemingly unfavorable climate is thanks to “high electricity prices and favorable tax and regulatory policies” as CNN Money put it. Skeptics might consider that evidence of an artificial market created through government intervention, but then our national failure to properly price carbon emissions and natural capital is massively subsidizing non-renewable power in the opposite direction.
Other facts the Solar Foundation dug up included a 13.2 percent job growth rate in the solar industry from 2011 to 2012 — which added almost 14,000 jobs — versus a mere 2.3 percent growth rate in the overall economy. 86 percent of those were 14,000 were entirely new jobs, as opposed to previously existing positions that simply added on solar components. And finally, another 17.2 percent job growth rate is expected in the industry for this year, meaning another 20,000 jobs.