Solar Now Provides Twice As Many Jobs As The Coal Industry

As solar power becomes cost-effective, the solar industry is seeing an increase in new jobs, adding workers at a whopping 17 times faster than the overall economy. 

Twice as many people now work in the solar industry rather than coal, according to a newly published survey from the nonprofit Solar Foundation. 40 coal plants were shut down in the U.S. in 2016, and no new coal plants have been built. The solar industry made new records with new installations, with 14,000 megawatts of power. Many of the jobs came from constructing massive solar plants like the Springbok Solar Farm, which is being built on a 12 mile site in the Mojave Desert.

"It's very labor-intensive," Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the Solar Foundation, tells Co.Exist. "It takes hundreds of people to work on some of these large-scale systems, and it takes about 18 months for the systems to go from start to finish." In some cases, a traveling crew moves from site to site.

Other companies have to focus on hiring more local workers, and while large solar farms may be located in sunny places, rooftop solar is creating more new construction jobs everywhere. Other industries such as sales, marketing and other solar industry jobs are growing at a positive rate across the country. 44 out of 50 states doubled (or more than doubled) up the number of solar jobs in 2016, states the report. 1-in-50 new jobs in America was through the solar industry!

An entry-level worker without a degree can increase their salary within a year, from $10-$12 an hour for simple manual labor to $20-$23 an hour. The median wage posted for solar installer jobs in 2016 was $26 an hour. "This is just an incredible example of the opportunities that exist for people that need these opportunities the most," Luecke says. "You don't see that level of mobility within retail, or food service, or hospitality, or janitorial, which is where most people who don't have higher education are forced to look. The solar industry does provide a new option."

The solar industry is much more labor-intensive than any other type of energy industry. Even though it represents a significantly small fraction of energy production—less than 2%—it already has more workers than natural gas, coal, wind, and nuclear. The use of robots and other automation will make solar jobs more efficient, but jobs will continue to flourish. Some calculations have predicted that by 2021, the U.S. will have 100 gigawatts of installed solar power; currently, we are close to 39 gigawatts.

A national study estimated that the U.S. had the capacity for two terawatts of solar power—or 200,000 gigawatts. "We haven't even come close to scratching the surface," Luecke says. "We still are only 1.3% of the overall electricity mix. I think the rooftops in our land can support a tremendous amount of more solar development."

“We haven't even come close to scratching the surface."

Policies can help those jobs grow faster, from the federal investment tax credit to state requirements for solar power or city laws such as San Francisco's new legislation requiring newly-constructed buildings to include solar power. "If the federal government is not going to be taking fast action on and leadership on energy, then you're just going to see so much more happening in state and local levels, because they recognize that solar not only is good for the environment, but it's an economic driver in terms of jobs," Luecke says.

"And then, of course, it also provides them with a hedge against any sort of grid vulnerability, and allows for more consumer choice, and more energy independence.”

Solar also has gained widespread support, regardless of political ideology. 83% of conservative Republicans support the installation of more solar power, and 97% of liberal Democrats.

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Solar Now Provides Twice As Many Jobs As The Coal Industry Solar Now Provides Twice As Many Jobs As The Coal Industry Reviewed by Jamm Real on 23:16:00 Rating: 5
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