Solar Jobs Soar in New Survey

February 20, 2014


If you’d bet against Elon Musk when he started Paypal, Space-X, or Tesla Motors – you would have lost big.
Recently I posted Musk’s prediction that solar energy would be the Nation’s leading energy source 20 years from now.
That transformation is underway.

Solar Foundation:

Our research shows that solar industry employment has grown by an astonishing 53% – or nearly 50,000 new solar jobs – since we first started tracking them in 2010. Leading this growth are businesses in the installation sector, in which solar employment has grown by nearly 60% over the four- year period covered by the Census series, representing more than 25,000 jobs created in the sector since 2010. With leading market analyses predicting continued growth in annual installed solar capacity, it is likely that the national solar workforce will continue to experience similar growth.

U.S. solar companies continue hiring faster than the overall economy, and remain optimistic about future growth. As of November 2013, the solar industry has grown to 142,698 solar workers.1 This is an increase of almost 20% over our Census 2012 findings, and represents a growth rate that is ten times faster than what the overall U.S. economy experienced during that same time period. Over the next 12 months, nearly 45% of solar establishments expect to add jobs, while fewer than 1.9% expect to cut workers, yielding an expected 15.6% growth in employment. This finding is especially relevant given that employment in the overall U.S. economy is projected to grow by only 1.4% over the next 12 months.

By comparing the job growth expectations from our multi-year research effort and from existing secondary sources, we can draw several important conclusions.

As of November 2013:

Solar jobs increased nearly 20% since the Fall of 2012, which is ten times the national average job growth rate.3 There are 142,698 solar workers in the United States, up from 119,016 in 2012. Not only did the industry exceed growth expectations, but the pace of hiring has quickened, at a rate 50% higher than last year, suggesting that the trajectory for growth is even stronger than previously thought.


Solar is a major source of new U.S. jobs. 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. Viewed a different way, one in every 142 new jobs in the U.S. were created by the solar industry, and each day the solar industry creates 56 new jobs across America.

The solar industry expects double digit job growth over the next 12 months.

Solar employment is expected to grow by 15.6% over the next year, representing the addition of approximately 22,240 new solar workers. Forty-five percent of all solar establishments expect to have added solar employees by November 2014.

Two-thirds of new solar hires are living-wage installation jobs. Installers added the most solar workers over the past year, growing by 22%, an increase of 12,500 workers. Installer jobs, which cannot be off-shored and earn an average of $23.63 per hour, are expected to increase by nearly 15,000 next year. This represents a 21% year-over-year growth rate.

Solar workers are diverse. Nineteen percent of all solar workers are women, representing 26,738 solar workers, and one in six solar workers is Latino or Hispanic. With 13,192 U.S. veterans working at solar establishments across the United States, the solar industry is also an important source of employment for returning veterans, exceeding the percentage of veterans in the broader U.S. workforce.

Solar jobs have increased over 50% since 2010. Since the first National Solar Jobs Census was conducted in 2010 by The Solar Foundation®, solar industry employment has grown by 53%, which translates to nearly 50,000 new jobs.


The solar industry supports hundreds of thousands of indirect and induced jobs. Census data include most of the direct jobs and many of the indirect jobs in the solar industry, with the exception of some indirect jobs in the component and materials supply chain. Those jobs, combined with induced impacts of the industry, support an additional 435,000 jobs, bringing the total employment impact for the U.S. solar industry to nearly 600,000.

11 Responses to “Solar Jobs Soar in New Survey”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    Too bad most of these solar jobs are devoted to installing solar panels that are in suboptimal geographies, on homeowner’s rooftops which is the most expensive instal imaginable, will only benefit the person who is footing the bill, and can only address a small fraction of the total energy needs of a typical household.

    Aside from that…. brilliant!

    • Yes, its crazy how renewables have grown. Its driven by state policy and politics rather than by appropriateness. Solar appropriate areas like the southwest have some welcome concentrated solar growth, like Ivanpah. Oddly, Iowa and Minnesota have disproportionate renewables growth, while states with better potential, like Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, are lagging. We need a coordinated, centrally planned grid and renewables build out that still has room for local development. It would be more efficient if the policies were centrally directed. It will take more political will at the highest levels to get there. Until then, if Iowa shows other states how its done, I can only tip my hat in admiration. Maybe thats how we can get it to happen.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Talking about Elon Musk, I was recently trying to promote electric cars and especially the Tessla S in New Zealand (where 70% of electricity is from renewables, and increasing from ongoing wind power projects), several people brought up the issue of electricity from fossil fuel sources and the futility of EVs. I found this interesting piece from the US Depart of Energy discussing efficiency of an EV from electricity produced by fossils vs combustion engine. It seems a significant decrease of CO2 is emitted as the combustion engine is not as efficient as a fossil fuel electricity generating plant.


    • greenman3610 Says:

      the “electricity comes from coal so EVs don’t make sense” meme is a perennial.

    • One more nail for the EVs not clean canard coffin.
      EVs are ahead and as EV and battery manufacturing becomes more efficient and as electricity becomes greener, EVs will pull way out ahead. FYI, gas is getting worse. Consider that more and more gas is coming from tar sands, way more CO2 and pollution. There is no question which is greener going forward.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      There are other benefits to the “long tailpipe” – lower emissions in large population centers means less ground-level ozone and less smog.

      Even though quality scrubbers are expensive to implement, especially as a retrofit, it’s still more efficient to do it at the relatively few large plants than to waste precious metal catalysts to do it inefficiently at 100s of millions of combustion engines.

  3. This from Midwest Energy News. Is the distributed energy future already here?
    “It also points out that customer-sited, rather than utility-scale, power projects are expected to make up most of the incremental growth in generation capacity over the remainder of the decade.”
    Looking at Iowa, we see lots of solar on farms. That was not expected, but it makes sense. There is a lot of DE that can expand in small to medium size businesses. Business growth starts with small business. Thats where the most jobs are created.

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