solar jobs in the united states

Solar jobs: past, present, and future

Nationally and internationally, renewable energy technologies, and solar in particular, are taking off. Cities, states and countries are reaching previously unseen levels of renewable energy growth, with some even running exclusively on renewable energy. With this boom comes significant economic investment, which in turn leads to job creation. In fact, two recent studies detailed just how many solar jobs exist: nearly a quarter million in the US alone, and nearly 4.5 million globally.

Types of solar jobs

Solar is a vast industry that spans the globe multiple times around. Getting to the point where your home or business has a high performing solar panel system installed takes many steps, and supports many different types of solar jobs along the way.

First and foremost, there are manufacturing jobs associated with creating each of the components in your solar energy system, from solar panels to solar inverters and solar batteries as well. The majority of solar equipment is manufactured outside of the US; however, a number of large panel manufacturers–including LG, Panasonic, Hanwha and Silfab–are opening (or have already opened) solar panel manufacturing facilities in the US.

Next, the solar industry maintains a robust infrastructure of supply-chain jobs. These are the companies and employees who help bridge the gap between the equipment coming off of production lines globally and the local solar companies that will ultimately install this equipment for you. Between wholesalers and distributors, there are plenty of solar opportunities to go around. 





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When it comes time to place panels on your property or business, you’ll be contributing to solar installation jobs. Solar companies need hyper-local labor in order to install solar energy systems. Even if your solar panels come from Asia and your inverter was made in Europe, at the end of the day, you need local workers to actually come to your home or business to install the equipment.

And, finally, after solar panel systems are up and running, there is an entire industry dedicated to solar operations and maintenance jobs. Solar energy systems are often guaranteed or warrantied to perform at a very high level for many years to come. But in the event that equipment underperforms, O&M companies can not only monitor performance but also help replace panels, inverters and batteries if needed.

The Solar Foundation Jobs Census

Every year, The Solar Foundation releases an update to their industry-standard National Solar Jobs Census. The report compiles industry data to describe the state of the solar industry in the US writ large, focusing not on one specific portion of the industry but rather on the industry as a whole. 

In the 2019 Jobs Census, The Solar Foundation found that the American solar industry supports over 240,000 jobs. In fact, over the last three years, the solar industry has accounted for an average of a quarter-million jobs every year! Compared to other industries, within the energy sector or elsewhere, these results are striking: according to BLS data, coal mining only supports 52,000 jobs in the US at present, only one-fifth as many jobs as are in the solar industry. 

REN21’s Global Status Report

Globally, the story is largely the same. Solar accounted for 2.4 percent of all electricity produced globally in 2018, according to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century’s (REN21) annual Renewables Global Status Report. And yet the solar industry accounts for more jobs than any other renewable sector: of the 11 million global renewable energy jobs, about 4.5 million (or 40 percent) are solar jobs. 

jobs in renewable energy infographic

The future of solar job growth

All of the jobs in solar that exist today support an industry that is nowhere near the scale that it could achieve in the near future. As of 2019, solar is on over 2 million rooftops in the US alone, but there are 83 million stand-alone houses in the US, many of which are prime candidates for solar panel systems. What’s more, as cities and states pass increasingly ambitious renewable energy targets, the growth in solar won’t just be limited to residential installations: investing in and installing large scale solar will be paramount to achieving high renewable energy targets.

Given that the quarter-million domestic solar jobs support an industry that accounted for only about 2 percent of all electricity in 2018, the potential for growth is massive. The same is true internationally, where 4.5 million solar jobs sustained a solar sector that produced just over 2 percent of global electricity. As solar goes from representing a small fraction of electricity in the US and internationally to a quarter or even more of all electricity, solar jobs are poised to experience even greater growth, perhaps even increasing ten-fold to meet the new needs of the industry. 

Support local jobs by going solar

When you invest in a solar panel system for your home or business, you are investing in your local economy and supporting local jobs. The solar equipment you choose may come from the other side of the world; but by its very nature, solar requires local workers to come place the panels on your property. EnergySage works with over 500 solar companies around the country, all of whom have been pre-screened and whose performance is regularly monitored. To contribute to supporting these local solar jobs, register for the EnergySage Marketplace to receive free, custom solar quotes from up to seven local companies today. 





Don



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About Spencer Fields

Spencer is the Content & Research Manager at EnergySage, where he writes about all things energy. Prior to joining EnergySage, he spent five years at Synapse Energy Economics, providing environmental, economic and policy analysis for public interest groups. Spencer has degrees in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies from Brown University, meaning when he's not in the office you can find him outside or traveling somewhere to work on his Spanish.

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