The Solar Foundation’s annual National Solar Jobs Census is a comprehensive report on employment trends within the U.S. solar industry, nationwide and state by state. The latest Solar Jobs Census includes data for 2017.
The latest Solar Jobs Census found that 250,271 Americans work in solar as of 2017. This is a 3.8% decline, or about 9,800 fewer jobs, since 2016, marking the first time that jobs have decreased since the first Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010. At the same time, the long-term trend continues to show significant growth. The solar workforce increased by 168% in the past seven years, from about 93,000 jobs in 2010 to over 250,000 jobs in 2017.
The 2017 trends for solar jobs varied widely state by state. Solar jobs increased in 29 states and the District of Columbia, including in many states with emerging solar markets. States with significant job gains include Utah, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee. California remains the state with the largest number of solar jobs nationwide, but jobs in California decreased 14% in 2017. In Massachusetts, the state with the second largest solar workforce, employment decreased by 21%.
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Other key findings from the National Solar Jobs Census 2017:
- Demand-side sectors (installation, sales & distribution, and project development) lost approximately 7,500 jobs in 2017, while the manufacturing sector lost about 1,200 jobs.
- In the five-year period between 2012 and 2017, solar employment grew by 110% overall or 16% annually, adding 131,000 jobs. Within this period, solar employment grew nine times faster than the overall U.S. economy, and one in every 100 new jobs was a solar job.
- Solar makes up just under 2% of overall U.S. energy generation, yet it employs twice as many workers as the coal industry, almost five times as many as nuclear power, and nearly as many workers as the natural gas industry. (These numbers are based on 2016 data, the most recent available for comparison between industries.)
- Women made up 27% of the solar workforce in 2017, down 1% from 2016. Veterans made up 9% of solar workers, which is 2% more than the overall U.S. workforce.
- Solar industry wages remain competitive with similar industries and above the national average.
Since 2010, The Solar Foundation has defined a solar job as one held by a worker spending at least 50% of his or her time on solar-related work. Read the full details on the National Solar Jobs Census methodology here.
The National Solar Jobs Census 2017 was made possible through contributions from foundations and individuals like you. Thanks to all our sponsors:
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Tilia Fund; Energy Foundation; Solar Energy Industries Association; Swinerton Renewable Energy; Aurora Solar; EnergeiaWorks; Nautilus Solar Energy; Maryland Energy Administration; MDV-SEIA; 8minutenergy; sPower; Blattner Energy; Cypress Creek Renewables; California Energy Commission; New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department; Sol Systems; EcoFasten Solar; DC Department of Energy & Environment; Sunrun; Tradewind Energy; The D.E. Shaw Group; Recurrent Energy; groSolar; Vivint Solar; Borrego Solar Systems; NRG Energy; Quick Mount PV; and the Great Plains Institute.
Solar Employee Profiles
The National Solar Jobs Census showcases the wide range of occupations in America’s solar workforce, including installation, manufacturing, engineering, sales and marketing, finance, project development, and much more. Read our employee profiles to learn about the diverse career opportunities available in solar.
“Minnesota has led the nation in the development of renewable energy. Thanks to Minnesota’s strong commitment to clean energy, our solar workforce grew by 48 percent last year. We will continue doing everything we can to protect our environment and our health, while building an even stronger clean energy economy in Minnesota.” — Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton
“Utah is blessed with abundant and diverse energy resources—including excellent solar potential. Solar deployment complements Utah’s ongoing commitment to delivering clean, innovative, sustainable energy development across its many resources and providing economic opportunities and jobs across the state.” — Utah Governor Gary Herbert
“Solar power enhances environmental protection and health and helps accelerate economic growth. Colorado is a great home for the solar industry and we value those companies that find our state a good place for business. We have to give credit to the innovative plans that have captured the interest of the solar industry, making Colorado one of the top states in solar deployment.” — Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
“We’re proud of our work to support the development of solar energy in Pennsylvania, and our commitment to building a diverse and robust clean energy sector, which helps stimulate the economy and creates jobs. We will continue to advance Pennsylvania’s role as a leader in renewable and clean energy innovation.” — Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf
“Under Governor Cuomo’s ambitious clean energy agenda, New York is putting in place all the right ingredients to create a thriving solar industry that is creating good paying jobs in communities across the state. Under the governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy, which includes initiatives like NY-Sun and New York Green Bank, our state is attracting private capital and driving innovation in project development and financing that will put us on a pathway to meeting our nation-leading commitment to obtaining 50 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030.” — Alicia Barton, President and CEO, New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)
“Over the past year, the U.S. solar industry provided high-quality jobs to more than 250,000 Americans – jobs that are available to a wide cross-section of talents and educational backgrounds. While the industry faces challenges ahead, including higher costs as a result of the new tariffs, the demand for low-cost, reliable, and sustainable energy shows no sign of slowing down. In the years ahead, we are confident that solar will continue to create jobs and grow local economies across the United States.” — George Hershman, President of Swinerton Renewable Energy
“The U.S. solar industry is dynamic, resilient and will continue to meet the country’s increasing demand for clean energy, despite the near-term challenges facing the sector. Nautilus Solar is committed to expanding its installed capacity and workforce in both existing and new solar markets across the U.S.” — Laura Stern, President of Nautilus Solar Energy
“Although uncertainty over the tariff restrained the industry in recent months, the fact remains that solar energy is the lowest-cost, cleanest, most abundant and accessible energy source in the world. Sunrun expanded into seven new markets last year and we will continue to create valuable local jobs, and bring new solar products and services to Americans.” — Lynn Jurich, Sunrun Co-Founder and CEO
The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2016 is the seventh annual update on current employment, trends, and projected growth in the U.S. solar industry. The Solar Jobs Census 2016 found that solar employment increased by over 51,000 workers, a 25 percent increase over 2015. Overall, the Solar Jobs Census found there were 260,077 solar workers in 2016. Solar industry employment has nearly tripled since the first National Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.
Solar jobs increased in 44 of the 50 states in 2016. To learn more about solar jobs by state, county, metro area, and legislative district, visit our interactive Solar Jobs Map.
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- One out of every 50 new jobs added in the United States in 2016 was created by the solar industry, representing 2% percent of all new jobs.
- Solar jobs in the United States have increased at least 20 percent per year for the past four years, and jobs have nearly tripled since the first Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.
- Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total solar industry employment increase by 10 percent to 286,335 solar workers.
- In 2016, the five states with the most solar jobs were California, Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Florida.
- The solar industry added $84 billion to the US GDP in 2016 – See the Economic Impact 2016 Fact Sheet for more impact details.
Since 2010, the National Solar Jobs Census has defined solar workers as those who spend at least 50 percent of their time on solar-related work. The Solar Foundation has consistently found that approximately 90 percent of these workers spend 100 percent of their time on solar-related work. This year’s Census was part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy and Employment Report data collection effort that included more than 500,000 telephone calls and over 60,000 emails to energy establishments in the U.S. between October and November 2016. This resulted in a total of 3,888 full completions for establishments involved in solar activity in the U.S.
The Solar Foundation would like to acknowledge and thank its sponsors:
Energy Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Tilia Fund, Solar Energy Industries Association, Swinerton, E.ON, sPower, SunLink, Sungevity, Sierra Club, the California Energy Commission, and the State of New Mexico Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
Thank you to Recurrent Energy, Solaria, and Sun Light & Power for their assistance with the Solar Jobs Census 2016 video.
The Solar Jobs Census 2016 was made possible through contributions from foundations and individuals like you.
Solar Worker Profiles:
The National Solar Jobs Census showcases the wide range of occupations that make up America’s 260,077 solar workers. Solar job seekers can get started in a variety of professions, from installation, to sales and marketing, to project management, engineering, and manufacturing — and jobs are available at all levels of education and experience. Read profiles of solar workers here.
“Solar is an important part of our ever expanding clean energy economy in Massachusetts, supporting thousands of high-skilled careers across the Commonwealth. Through the continued development of solar incentive programs, Massachusetts is positioned to double the amount of solar for half the cost to ratepayers and maintain our position as one of the best states in the country for energy diversity.” — Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker
“More and more business leaders and investors recognize that climate change presents both risks and opportunities, but they need better information to make informed decisions. The Solar Jobs Census helps provides that.” — Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P., philanthropist, and three-term Mayor of New York City
“Effective climate policy has been stalled for years on the premise that reducing emissions necessarily harms economic growth and employment. The explosive growth of the solar industry and other renewable energy sources, along with the continued vitality of California’s overall economy after implementing ambitious emissions reduction goals, is powerful evidence to the contrary. Having reliable employment figures from trusted sources like The Solar Foundation helps move the debate forward and builds momentum to continue our efforts to build a clean energy future.” –Kevin de León, California Senate President Pro Tempore
“Rapid growth in the U.S. solar industry is helping drive a profound transformation of our economy, bringing quality jobs to communities, lowering costs for families and businesses, and reducing America’s contribution to climate change. Energy Foundation is proud to support the National Solar Jobs Census because it helps policymakers and the public quantify the benefits and find new ways to advance clean energy, which serves the public interest.” —Curtis Seymour, Program Director, Renewables and Grid, Energy Foundation
“It’s really a wide range of people that get hired into this industry, everybody from certified and licensed engineers to those who first learned about a solar project when we were building one in their area. A great aspect of this business is that it isn’t an exclusionary trade. It’s a teachable job that can create opportunity for people and give them a skill.” — George Hershman, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Swinerton Renewable Energy
“Renewable energy use translates to bottom-line benefits such as lower and more stable energy costs for GM in the long term. With more than 67 megawatts 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.” — Rob Threlkeld, Global Manager of Renewable Energy at General Motors
“As one of the world’s largest owners of rooftops, Prologis is committed to leveraging its portfolio and capabilities to host solar and other clean energy technologies. As of year-end 2016, nearly 165 MW of rooftop solar is hosted within our global portfolio of modern industrial real estate assets. Increased solar deployment is one important tool in working to address climate change, and one that simultaneously spurs job creation, as shown by The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census.” — Matt Singleton, Vice President for Global Energy and Development at Prologis
“As part of our commitment to sustainability and goal to be energy independent by 2020, IKEA is proud of its 44 MW of solar arrays atop 90 percent of our U.S. locations. We are thrilled that our solar investment has helped contribute to rapid growth in the clean tech and renewable energy industry ¾ and the creation of quality jobs and a low-carbon society as a result.” — Lars Petersson, IKEA U.S. President
The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2015 is the sixth annual update of current employment, trends, and projected growth in the U.S. solar industry. Census 2015 found that the industry continues to exceed growth expectations, adding workers at a rate nearly 12 times faster than the overall economy and accounting for 1.2% of all jobs created in the U.S. over the past year. Our long-term research shows that solar industry employment has grown by 123% in the past six years, resulting in nearly 115,000 domestic living-wage jobs.
As of November 2015, the solar industry employs 208,859 solar workers, representing a growth rate of 20.2% since November 2014.
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Highlights from Census 2015:
- Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total employment in the solar industry increase by 14.7% to 239,625 solar workers.
- One out of every 83 new jobs created in the U.S. since Census 2014 was created by the solar industry – representing 1.2% of all new jobs.
- Of the 208,859 solar workers in the United States, approximately 188,000 are 100% dedicated to solar activities.
- Wages paid to solar workers remain competitive with similar industries and provide many living-wage opportunities.
- With 119,931 solar workers, the installation sector remains the single largest solar employment sector. The installation sector grew by almost 24% since November 2014 and by 173% since 2010.
- The solar workforce continues to reflect greater diversity than many industry sectors, but the solar industry still has much work to do to represent the rich diversity of the overall U.S. population. Women in solar jobs increased by 2% and now represent 24% of the solar workforce.
Data for Census 2015 is derived from a statistically valid sampling and comprehensive survey of 400,000 establishments throughout the nation, in industries ranging from manufacturing, to construction and engineering, to sales. Rapid change in this industry has warranted annual examinations of the size and scope of the domestic solar labor force and updates on employers’ perspectives on job growth and future opportunities.
The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2014 is the fifth annual update of current employment, trends, and projected growth in the U.S. solar industry. Census 2014 found that the industry continues to exceed growth expectations, adding workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy and accounting for 1.3% of all jobs created in the U.S. over the past year. Our long-term research shows that solar industry employment has grown by 86% in the past five years, resulting in nearly 80,000 domestic living-wage jobs.
As of November 2014, the solar industry employs 173,807 solar workers, representing a growth rate of 21.8% since November 2013.
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Highlights from Census 2014:
- Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total employment in the solar industry increase by 20.9% to 210,060 solar workers.
- One out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. since Census 2013 was created by the solar industry – representing 1.3% of all new jobs.
- Of the 173,807 solar workers in the United States, approximately 157,500 are 100% dedicated to solar activities.
- Wages paid to solar workers remain competitive with similar industries and provide many living-wage opportunities.
- The installation sector remains the single largest source of domestic employment growth, more than doubling in size since 2010.
- Solar workers are increasingly diverse. Demographic groups such as Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and African American, along with women and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces now represent a larger percentage of the solar workforce than was observed in Census 2013.
Data for Census 2014 is derived from a statistically valid sampling and comprehensive survey of 276,376 establishments throughout the nation, in industries ranging from manufacturing, to construction and engineering, to sales. Rapid change in this industry has warranted annual examinations of the size and scope of the domestic solar labor force and updates on employers’ perspectives on job growth and future opportunities.
The Solar Foundation’s highly anticipated National Solar Jobs Census 2013 found that the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans as of November 2013. This figure includes the addition of 23,682 solar workers over the previous year, representing 19.9 percent growth in employment since September 2012. During the period covered by the Census, solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment rate of 1.9 percent. This growth rate is also significant in that it shows – for the first time ever – the solar industry exceeded the growth projections made in the previous year’s report. The Census was well-received by high-level stakeholders. Read the statement of support from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Also, check out The White House slide deck using Census data which was broadcast during the enhanced State of the Union.
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Other noteworthy findings from National Solar Jobs Census 2013 include:
- Seventy-seven percent of the nearly 24,000 new solar workers since September 2012 are new jobs, rather than existing positions that have added solar responsibilities, representing 18,211 new jobs created.
- This comparison indicates that since data were collected for Census 2012, one in every 142 new jobs in the U.S. was created by the solar industry, and many more were saved by creating additional work opportunities for existing employees.
- Installers added the most solar workers over the past year, growing by 22%, an increase of 12,500 workers.
- Solar employment is expected to grow by 15.6% over the next 12 months, representing the addition of approximately 22,240 new solar workers. Forty-five percent of all solar establishments expect to add solar employees during this period.
- Employers from each of the solar industry sectors examined in this study expect significant employment growth over the next 12 months, with nearly all of them projecting percentage job growth in the double-digits.
- Approximately 91% of those who meet our definition of a “solar worker” (those workers who spend at least 50% of their time supporting solar-related activities) spent 100% of their time working on solar.
- Wages paid by solar firms are competitive, with the average solar installer earning between $20.00 (median) and $23.63 (mean) per hour, which is comparable to wages paid to skilled electricians and plumbers and higher than average rates for roofers and construction workers. Production and assembly workers earn slightly less, averaging $15.00 (median) to $18.23 (mean) per hour, slightly more than the national average for electronic equipment assemblers.
- The solar industry is a strong employer of veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, who constitute 9.24% of all solar workers – compared with 7.57% in the national economy. Solar employs a slightly larger proportion of Latino/Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander workers than the overall economy.
For the report’s release, TSF hosted a teleconference to discuss the Census’ findings and trends.
Speakers for this event included:
- Governor Bill Ritter, Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University
- Andrea Luecke, Executive Director & President of The Solar Foundation
- Lyndon Rive, Chief Executive Officer at SolarCity
- Tom Werner, President and Chief Executive Office of SunPower
- Amit Ronen, Director of The George Washington University’s Solar Institute
- Philip Jordan, Vice President of BW Research Partnership
- Moderator: Thomas P. Kimbis, Chairman of the Board of The Solar Foundation
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By comparing the job growth expectations from both our multi-year research effort and existing secondary sources, we can draw several important conclusions:
As of September 2012,
— Eighty-six percent of the nearly 14,000 new solar workers added since August 2011 represent new jobs, rather than existing positions that have added solar responsibilities.
— Installers added the most solar workers over the past year, more than offsetting declines in manufacturing. While this subsector is dominated by small firms, employment is growing most dramatically at larger firms, suggesting consolidation and maturation of the installation sector.
— Solar employment is expected to grow by 17.2 percent over the next 12 months, representing the addition of approximately 20,000 new solar workers. Forty-four percent of all solar firms expect to add solar employees during this period.
— Employers from all of the solar industry subsectors examined in this study expect significant employment growth over the next 12 months, with nearly all of them projecting percentage job growth in the double-digits.
— Nearly half of installation firms expect to add solar workers in the next year, adding a total of nearly 12,000 jobs (21 percent growth year-over-year).
— Approximately 90 percent of those who meet our definition of a “solar worker” (those workers who spend at least 50 percent of their time supporting solar-related activities) actually spend 100 percent of their time working on solar.
— Over half of all firms (across all subsectors) generate 100 percent of their revenues exclusively from solar.
— Employers are increasingly less likely to span multiple subsectors, suggesting that firms are beginning to specialize.
Much more in the FULL REPORT
Read what the media is writing about the National Solar Jobs Census 2012:
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In part, Census 2011 found:
- 100,237 jobs as of August 2011
- 6.8% growth from August 2010 to August 2011 – growing nearly ten times faster than the overall economy
- 6,735 new solar jobs created between August 2010 and August 2011
- Employers expect to increase their workforce by 24% next year, creating 24,000 net new solar jobs
Also included you will find:
- Top twenty states for solar jobs ranked
- Recommendations for policymakers, workforce training providers, employers
- Company profiles
- Value chain breakdown for top five states
Compared with the overall economy, which grew only 0.7% during that same period, the solar industry is an economic bright spot.
Click below to read what the media is saying:
On camera interviews with Executive Director Andrea Luecke:
Listen to an International City/County Management Association podcast with Andrea Luecke on the Census
Click below to read press reports on the prerelease of our top-line numbers:
- Nichola Groom, Reuters
- Alex Guillen, Politico
- Chris Meehan, Clean Energy Authority
- Brian Keane, SmartPower’s President in Huffington Post
- Stephen Lacey, Think Progress
- Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza, Blog in Renewable Energy World
- Scott Sklar, The Stella Group’s President in Renewable Energy World
- Michael Bloch, Reporter for Energy Matters
- N. Lederer, L. Berland-Shane, K. Surace and V. Siciliano, Bloggers for The Hill’s Congress Blog
- US Department of Energy
The report was released at the Solar Power International 2010 conference in Los Angeles on October 13, 2010 at the Census Release Party, sponsored by RenewableEnergyWorld.com, HeliosUSA, Hunton & Williams, and Yingli Solar.
The positive responses to The Solar Foundation’s research exemplify the widespread need in for data demonstrating the value of solar energy to the U.S. economy. We strive to continually improve our work in this area and provide more research showing the value of both public and private sector investments in solar energy. In the absence of Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the full range of solar occupations, it is of critical importance to the solar industry that organizations like ours conduct this type of research that not only help us to better understand the needs of employers (so that we can better design training programs that lead to more qualified and skilled employees), but also to give policymakers an indication of how solar is creating jobs in their districts.
In a press release for National Solar Jobs Census 2010,Secretary of Labor Hilda L Solis said:
“Among other things, this study shows that investments made through Recovery Act—including the $2.3 billion in tax credits to U.S. based clean energy manufacturing—are already generating positive results. The solar energy sector is an increasingly important source of good jobs for Americans. Fostering the growth of this emerging industry will help protect our environment, ensure the U.S. remains competitive in the global economy, and offer great opportunities for the nation’s working families.”
See what the media said about the National Solar Jobs Census 2010: