The U.S. solar sector enjoyed years of rapid expansion with employment peaking at 260,000 in 2016 before tariffs imposed by the Trump administration cast a shadow over a booming industry. The tariffs on crystalline silicon modules and cells were among the factors that caused employment to drop for two consecutive years with the total workforce contracting to 244,340 by 2018. The Solar Foundation has now released its latest National Solar Job Census and the news is good – solar jobs nationwide have grown 2.3%, increasing to just under 250,000.
Increases in solar employment were observed in 31 states in 2019 with Florida leading the charge. The sunshine state expanded installations for both residential and utility solar while the increased availability of solar leasing allowed installers to offer customers attractive financing options. That saw Florida add 1,843 jobs between 2018 and 2019, the highest absolute number in any U.S. state. The Southeastern part of the country in general was a bright spot in this year’s census and it recorded strong job growth driven by utility-scale expansion and new manufacturing jobs. A net total of 3,700 jobs were added across the region.
California is still the country’s largest solar job market and it accounts for 40% of U.S. cumulative solar capacity with 74,255 jobs in total in 2019. According to the census, it experienced a 3.4% decline in jobs between 2018 and 2019 with 2,583 positions lost. The good news for California is that the decline is well below the 13.6% and 11.1% contractions recorded in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Despite the Trump administration’s support for fossil fuels, solar is enjoying a resurgence due to the plummeting cost of the technology and its increased popularity among individuals, businesses and electric utilities. According to federal figures, the solar industry accounts for approximately 2.6% of total U.S. electricity generation.
Source: Forbes – Energy