The U.S. economy added over 23,600 solar energy related jobs last year, bringing the total number of solar jobs in the nation to 142,698. The figures were released Monday by The Solar Foundation (TSF) in its fourth annual National Solar Jobs Census.
According to TSF, U.S. solar jobs grew by almost 20 percent in 2013 — far exceeding expectations — or roughly ten times faster than the national employment rate of just 1.9 percent.
“This is the fourth year in a row that the industry has grown,” said Andrea Luecke, executive Director of the Solar Foundation in a press call. “Solar continues to consistently put people back to work. Since we first started tracking solar jobs in 2010, it has grown by an astounding 53 percent, creating nearly 50,000 new jobs. Importantly, these jobs have remained well paid and attract highly skilled workers.”
Luecke added that the vast majority of these jobs — about 90 percent — were new jobs, not existing jobs with added solar responsibilities. Two-thirds of the new jobs, in fact, were in the installation sector.
“The solar industry is one of the fastest growing industries in America,” said Luecke. “One in every 142 new jobs in the U.S. last year was created by the solar industry. Every day in 2013, an average of 56 new jobs were added.”
The data for the study were collected from 15,000 employers across the country and included numbers from a wide variety of sectors including manufacturing, installation, project development, and sales. For the first time ever, the survey also assessed the solar-related jobs that were created in academia, nonprofits, and the government.
Looking forward to 2014, TSF expects that jobs in the solar industry will continue to grow, although perhaps at a reduced rate from the phenomenal growth seen last year. TSF is forecasting a 15.6 percent growth rate in 2014, or an additional 22,000 jobs. Luecke attributes the slower predicted growth rate to labor efficiencies in the installation sector.
“2013 was a very exciting year for us,” said Lyndon Rive, Chief Executive Officer at SolarCity. “We added over 2,000 jobs, bringing our total employees to just under 4,500 in the U.S. Something that is unique about solar is that there isn’t a central hub. It’s not like finance in New York, or entertainment in southern California. Solar jobs are spread across the entire country. We work in 14 states, and saw growth double in all of those states.”
Rive added that one of the most exciting developments of 2013 was seeing solar thrive despite the end of state-based incentives.
“Cost has come down so much that we are starting to work without state-based incentives.” said Rive. “Incentives in many states like California and Arizona have essentially disappeared, and yet the adoption has never been higher.”
A more detailed, state-by-state breakdown of the solar jobs market will be released next month.