Reducing pollution levels by providing a clean, renewable energy source is just one of the ways the solar power is helping to create a more sustainable planet. Another aspect of the solar industry that is included in this goal is to provide long-term employment for workers both directly and indirectly.
As a major component of the new market economy needed to fuel the growth of the future, the solar industry continues to generate jobs for thousands of individuals across the country and the world. With the support of federally sponsored training programs and a robust technical education system, the U.S. is poised to see sustained growth in the solar labor force.
The state of solar job market
Employment growth in the solar sector is surging in the U.S. According to the sixth annual National Solar Jobs Census published by The National Solar Foundation, the nation added 35,052 solar industry jobs in the 12 months preceding November 2015, bringing the total number of Americans employed in this sector to 208,859.
This represents a 20.2 percent employment growth rate between November 2014 and 2015, and marks the third year in a row job gains have increased by 20 percent or more in this sector. What makes this growth even more impressive is realizing that as the industry keeps adding 20 percent more jobs, the following year it is has improved on that larger number of jobs by another 20 percent.
Compared to other industries, solar is the place to go for finding a job for top talent coming out of school or moving from other fields. Nationally, job growth in the U.S. increased by 1.7 percent between November 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, another comparable energy sector, the oil and gas extraction industry, shed 13,800 jobs over this same time period and now only employ 187,200 individuals.
The National Solar Foundation President and Executive Director Andrea Luecke noted that this sustained employment growth is providing much-needed work while strengthening the country's economy.
"The solar industry has once again proven to be a powerful engine of economic growth and job creation," Luecke said. "Employment in solar has grown an extraordinary 123 percent since 2010, adding approximately 115,000 well-paying jobs. Our Census findings show that one out of every 83 new jobs created in the U.S. over the last 12 months was in the solar industry - 1.2 percent of all new jobs."
The solar employers surveyed intend on adding more than 30,000 jobs to the industry over the next 12 months. While this will probably only result in an increase of 14.7 percent, it's still a great sign that the solar industry should remain a major force for hiring and job growth in the coming years.
Wide distribution of jobs nationally
While not every state has a booming solar industry ready to hire thousands of workers, there is a fairly even distribution of areas with a concentration of solar jobs dispersed around the country. According to The Solar Foundation's heat map of the greatest concentrations of solar jobs, California takes the cake by a long shot - employing 75,598 individuals in the state. Although it makes sense that sunny California would lead the nation in solar power jobs, Massachusetts comes in second with 15,095 jobs, while New York and New Jersey come in at fourth and fifth with 8,250 and 7,071 workers in each state, respectively. Nevada - another state with high insolation - rounds out the top five at No. 3, with 8,764 jobs. This indicates it's not just the sunniest regions with the most solar jobs.
The areas with the least amount of solar jobs are the Great Plains, from North Dakota down to Oklahoma. While wind power might be gaining greater traction in this gusty regions, the opportunities exist to create solar jobs that complement the wind-power positions.
Further, the jobs associated with the solar industry extend far beyond merely installation and manufacturing - although those are the top two positions with 119,931 for the former and 30,282 of the latter - but it also includes sales and distribution as well as project development jobs and many others.
Training the labor force of tomorrow
As the solar industry picks up steam, it is coming at the expense of other traditional sources of energy, particularly the coal industry. The solar sector has added about 50,000 new jobs in the last two years, and doubled the number of jobs over the past five years, CNN reported. Meanwhile, the coal industry has lost roughly 50,000 jobs over the past five years, The Washington Post reported. Harvard Business Review revealed that this industry retired 14 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity between 2010 and 2012. In addition, analysts project another 60 GW to go offline by 2020. With more individuals, companies and government agencies putting a larger emphasis on transitioning away from burning fossil fuels for energy and utilizing clean, renewable sources like solar, this current trend is only likely to continue.
However, instead of a looming unemployment crisis for the thousands of employees trained and experienced to work in the coal industry, a potentially viable solution might exist. According to research from the Energy Economics, individuals trained in the coal sector could be easily absorbed into the solar industry. The study included everyone from janitors at coal-fired power plants to miners to structural engineers.
Even before that study was released, the federal government has already been involved in contributing grant money to retrain coal workers for the solar industry. For example, the U.S. Labor Department has implemented the $5.1 million program known as Hiring Our Miners Everyday, or HOME, in Eastern Kentucky aimed at retraining coal workers for other industries, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
Supporting greater solar market job growth
Trina Solar is committed to growing our country's green economy. This also includes providing the solar panels necessary to generate the sustained job growth we're currently experiencing. In addition to supporting the solar labor force, Trina Solar is also dedicated to ensuring our workers are treated properly and receive the compensation and benefits befitting a world-class team.
Trina Solar received a score of 93 out of 100 and won third place in The Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition's 2015 Solar Scorecard survey. In addition to ensuring a high level of sustainable best practices in the manufacturing process and supply chain, the survey also includes several sections on worker rights as well as workplace health and safety issues, which Trina excelled in. As a vertically integrated company, with a consistent level of quality standards across the entire operation, Trina Solar remains focused on ensuring our workers have access to a safe working environment, which creates healthy and more productive employees.
Smart Energy Solutions
delivered straight to your inbox