U.S. solar industry records first job losses since 2010

Posted Feb 7, 2018 by Karen Graham
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.
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EDF Report
According to the Solar Jobs Census, 250,271 Americans work in solar as of 2017. This is a 3.8 percent decline, or about 9,800 fewer jobs, since 2016, which proved to be a record-smashing year.
With adjustments made for the 2016 solar boom, as well as indecision surrounding what would happen with the Section 201 trade case, and an overall slow-down in established solar markets, all these things played a role in the 3.8 percent decline, states the report.
"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, reports EcoWatch. “Uncertainty over the outcome of the trade case also had a likely impact on solar jobs growth."
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Having a few bankruptcies in the industry didn't help matters, either. But the job census also reports 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. And these figures are evidence that renewable energy is still growing.
Here are just a few takeaways from the report:
Solar makes up just under 2 percent of overall U.S. energy generation, yet 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 solar industry is more diverse than comparable industries, but more needs to be done to ensure it is representative of the greater U.S. population. Women made up 27 percent of the solar workforce in 2017, while veterans made up 9 percent of solar workers, which is 2 percent more than the overall U.S. workforce.
The solar industry upped the number of African-American and Asian workers it employs, and more solar companies are beginning to track demographic data - up 35 percent compared to 27 percent last year - in efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion.
Demand-side sectors (installation, sales & distribution, and project development) make up almost 78 percent of overall solar industry employment, while manufacturing makes up 15 percent. Demand-side sectors lost approximately 7,500 jobs in 2017, while manufacturing lost about 1,200 jobs.
Solar Employment Growth (2010-2018 (Projected)
Solar Employment Growth (2010-2018 (Projected)
The Solar Foundation
Future outlook for solar industry
Despite the job losses in 2017, the job census report leaves the reader with a positive outlook for the industry. While 2017 represents a setback, the trend is short-term rather than indicative of a bleak future, reports GreenTech Media.
Actually, 29 states saw job growth in the solar sector in 2017. This includes states with emerging solar markets, such as Utah, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Tennessee.
“States are still setting their renewable portfolio standards; they’re still increasing them or talking about increasing them,” said Ed Gilliland, senior director of programs at The Solar Foundation.
“We will likely experience some headwinds over the next year or two, but certainly the stronger states can sail forward. I think we can still get some emerging states to do well, but they need strong policies to support growth.”