Those still hoping President Trump’s focus on job creation could deliver dividends for the green economy were handed fresh ammunition yesterday, as a new report revealed one in every 50 new jobs created in the US last year was in the solar industry.
The seventh annual National Solar Jobs Census from The Solar Foundation NGO revealed the solar industry employed just over 260,000 people last year, an increase of over 51,000 jobs over the course of 2016.
The 25 per cent increase in employment levels represented the largest annual growth rate every recorded by the survey and meant the solar industry’s employment growth was 17 times higher than that recorded in the US economy as a whole.
The report also noted that employment in the solar industry grew in 44 of the 50 states last year, highlighting the nationwide nature of the sector.
“With a near tripling of solar jobs since 2010, the solar industry is an American success story that has created hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation in a statement. “In 2016, we saw a dramatic increase in the solar workforce across the nation, thanks to a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations. More than ever, it’s clear that solar energy is a low-cost, reliable, super-abundant American energy source that is driving economic growth, strengthening businesses, and making our cities smarter and more resilient.”
Significantly, employment growth was recorded in every part of the US solar industry, with many of the roles delivering relatively high wages and job security.
The number of people employed in solar manufacturing rose 26 per cent last year to 38,121, while the number of installation jobs increased 14 per cent to 137,133, the number of project development jobs climbed 53 per cent to 34,400, and the number of sales and distribution jobs jumped 32 per cent to 32,147 jobs.
Rob Threlkeld, global manager of renewable energy at General Motors, said the solar market was being driven by a compelling business case. “Renewable energy use translates to bottom-line benefits such as lower and more stable energy costs for GM in the long term,” he said. “With more than 67MW of solar housed at 24 facilities across the globe, we see the power of sunshine as an integral part of becoming a more sustainable company.”
The news follows a similar report last month which detailed how the number of people employed in the US sustainability sector had risen from 3.4 million jobs in 2011 to between four and 4.5 million jobs currently, driven in large part by wind and solar industries that are outstripping the national employment growth rate by 12 to one.