The Solar Jobs Census 2015 demonstrates that the U.S. solar industry is having a positive and growing impact on the national economy, supporting jobs across every state in the nation, and most sub-state geographic breakdowns. As with the previous Census studies, this report series includes information about all types of companies engaged in the analysis, research and development, production, sales, installation, and use of all solar technologies – ranging from solar photovoltaics (PV), to concentrating solar power (CSP), to solar water heating systems for the residential, commercial, industrial, and utility market segments.
The findings presented herein are based on rigorous survey efforts that include nearly 288,000 telephone calls and over 44,000 emails to known and potential solar establishments across the United States, resulting in a maximum margin of error for state employment of ±5% at a 95% confidence interval. Unlike economic impact models that generate employment estimates based on economic data or jobs-per megawatt (or jobs-per-dollar) assumptions, the Solar Jobs Census series provides statistically valid and current data, gathered from actual employers.
In contrast, The Solar Foundation’s 2014 state estimates of solar employment (for all states except CA, AZ, NY, TX, MD, and GA) were produced using a carefully developed dual methodology – one for installation and construction jobs and another for non-installation jobs (covering industry sectors such as manufacturing, sales & distribution, project development, and “other” occupations that support the solar industry). Method one used labor intensity multipliers developed internally and cross-checked with leading studies on the subject, while method two was based on a direct count of solar workers, the average number of jobs per solar establishment, and total number of establishments in the state.
Sub-state breakdowns are derived using location information from Census survey respondents. Employer establishments are geocoded using ZIP codes as that is the most likely level of geography that is known by the respondent, and it is disaggregated enough to run multiple spatial analyses. Small regions, such as upper and lower state house districts, do not fit neatly into ZIP codes and vice versa. As a result, no solar employment may be displayed in a district for the following reasons:
- There is no solar employment as industry concentration is non-existent for that district;
- A district is so small within a ZIP code compared to a larger district within the same ZIP code that it cannot be assigned industry concentration. This is an issue when there are many small districts in one densely populated region (e.g., the state house districts surrounding Boston, MA); or
- An insufficient amount of Census survey responses for a particular area.
Other non-jobs related facts and figures included in the map were compiled from a variety of sources. Solar resource ranks were produced using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) provided the data used to estimate “Number of Homes Powered by Solar”. “Total Solar Companies” was derived from SEIA’s National Solar Database. “Electricity Price Rank” is based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Net Metering Policy Grade” and “Interconnection Policy Grade” were both obtained from Freeing the Grid 2015, a joint project of The Vote Solar Initiative, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, and EQ Research. Information on the “Legal Status of Third-Party Ownership”, “Renewable Portfolio Standard Target”, and “RPS Solar Carve-out Target” was all sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, produced and maintained by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University.
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