Quantcast

Solar Jobs Fall for First Time Since 2010

Renewable Energy
Centre for Alternative Technology / Flickr

The U.S. solar industry lost 9,800 jobs last year, the first decline ever recorded since 2010, according to The Solar Foundation's latest National Solar Jobs Census.

This 3.8 percent decline was driven by a number of factors, from a slowdown of utility-scale and residential solar installations to the industry's uncertainty over President Trump's tariffs on imported solar panels.


"After six years of rapid and steady growth, the solar industry faced headwinds that led to a dip in employment in 2017, including a slowdown in the pace of new solar installations," said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “Uncertainty over the outcome of the trade case also had a likely impact on solar jobs growth."

President Trump's decision last month to impose 30 percent tariffs on imported solar panels and related equipment was made to protect domestic manufacturers but was criticized by most of the solar industry. The Solar Energy Industries Association warned that the decision would effectively cause the loss of roughly 23,000 American jobs this year.

However, the sector remains positive about the long-term outlook.

"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," George Hershman, president of Swinerton Renewable Energy, said. "In the years ahead, we are confident that solar will continue to create jobs and grow local economies across the United States."

Lynn Jurich, the co-founder and CEO of Sunrun, noted that while 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."

The Solar Foundation report showed that the number of U.S. solar jobs boomed 168 percent in the past seven years, from about 93,000 jobs in 2010 to more than 250,000 jobs in 2017—a trend that swamps other energy industries such as coal and nuclear energy.

Solar 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, the report found.

There are some other bright spots in The Solar Foundation's eighth annual report.

While the two states with the largest number of solar jobs nationwide saw a drop in employment (California by 14 percent, Massachusetts 21 percent), solar jobs increased in 29 other states and the District of Columbia last year. This includes states with emerging solar markets, such as Utah, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Tennessee.

Minnesota governor Mark Dayton applauded the state's "strong commitment to clean energy" for its solar workforce growth of 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," Dayton added.

Here are other key findings from the report:

  • 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 percent overall or 16 percent 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 percent 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 percent of the solar workforce in 2017, down 1 percent from 2016. Veterans made up 9 percent of solar workers, which is 2 percent more than the overall U.S. workforce.
  • Solar industry wages remain competitive with similar industries and above the national average.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Micromobility is the future of transportation in cities, but cities and investors need to plan ahead to avoid challenges. Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash

By Carlo Ratti, Ida Auken

On the window of a bike shop in Copenhagen, a sign reads: Your next car is a bike.

Read More Show Less
An American flag waves in the wind at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California on May 17 where a trial against Monsanto took place. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were awarded more than $2 billion in damages in their lawsuit against Monsanto, though the judge in the case lowered the damage award to $87 million. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

For the last five years, Chris Stevick has helped his wife Elaine in her battle against a vicious type of cancer that the couple believes was caused by Elaine's repeated use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide around a California property the couple owned. Now the roles are reversed as Elaine must help Chris face his own cancer.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Butterfly habitats have fallen 77 percent in the last 50 years. Pixabay / Pexels

The last 50 years have been brutal for wildlife. Animals have lost their habitats and seen their numbers plummet. Now a new report from a British conservation group warns that habitat destruction and increased pesticide use has on a trajectory for an "insect apocalypse," which will have dire consequences for humans and all life on Earth, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Six of the nineteen wind turbines which were installed on Frodsham Marsh, near the coal-powered Fiddler's Ferry power station, in Helsby, England on Feb. 7, 2017.

Sales of electric cars are surging and the world is generating more and more power from renewable sources, but it is not enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the global climate crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Read More Show Less
"Globally, we're starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis." Greenpeace

By Jake Johnson

A Greenpeace report released Tuesday uses a hypothetical "Smart Supermarket" that has done away with environmentally damaging single-use plastics to outline a possible future in which the world's oceans and communities are free of bags, bottles, packaging and other harmful plastic pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Children are forced to wear masks due to the toxic smoke from peat land fires in Indonesia. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Pediatricians in New Delhi, India, say children's lungs are no longer pink, but black.

Our warming planet is already impacting the health of the world's children and will shape the future of an entire generation if we fail to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6°F), the 2019 Lancet Countdown Report on health and climate change shows.

Read More Show Less
Private homes surround a 20 inch gas liquids pipeline which is part of the Mariner East II project on Oct. 5, 2017 in Marchwood, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The FBI is looking into how the state of Pennsylvania granted permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline as part of a corruption investigation, the AP reports.

Read More Show Less
Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less