The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit solar education and research organization, released its second annual review, “National Solar Jobs Census 2011: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce.” The report found that hiring in the solar work force is on the rise. More than 100,000 Americans are now employed in the solar industry.

“The solar industry has grown into a major economic force with more than 100,000 employees in the United States,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation. “We expect even greater growth in the foreseeable future. But policy-makers, work force training providers, and the industry must work together to continue creating good jobs for skilled workers.”

As of August 2011, the National Solar Jobs Census 2011 identified more than 17,198 solar employment sites and 100,237 solar jobs in all 50 states. The solar industry’s job growth rate of 6.8 percent is significantly higher than the 2 percent net job loss in fossil-fuel power generation and the economy-wide expectation of 0.7 percent growth over the same period.

At the state level, California continued to be the national leader in solar employment, with 25,575 workers. Rounding out the top 10 states are Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts showed the strongest growth rates from August 2010.

The 2011 census also found that solar employers expect to increase the number of solar workers by 24 percent, representing nearly 24,000 net new jobs by August 2012. Over the next 12 months, nearly
half of solar firms expect to add jobs.

“These survey responses merely reflect employers’ best estimates at expected new hiring, but it demonstrates a clear growth pattern for the industry and tremendous optimism by employers in the industry,” Luecke said.

The survey examined employment along the solar value chain and other fields and includes growth rates and job numbers for 31 separate occupations. The report included data from more than 2,100 solar company survey respondents.

“[This] is an important reference because the previous lack of data about solar employment was presenting difficulties to policy-makers and training providers,” said Philip Jordan, chief business officer at BW Research Partnership.