In January, The Solar Foundation, in concert with the GW Solar Institute and BW Research Partnership, released the sixth annual National Solar Jobs Census Report, providing details on current employment, trends and projected growth in the U.S. solar industry. Results were gleaned from almost 288,000 telephone calls and over 44,000 emails to known and potential energy establishments across the U.S., resulting in data from 19,000 firms.
This year's Census found that the solar industry continues to outpace most other sectors of the economy, adding workers at a rate nearly 12 times faster than the overall economy, and accounting for 1.2 percent of all jobs created in the United States over the past year. ("Workers" are defined as employees who spend at least 50 percent of their time on solar-related work; although, 90 percent of these employees spend 100 percent of their time on solar-related work.)
The report also noted that solar industry employment has grown by 123 percent since 2010, resulting in over 115,000 new domestic living-wage jobs.
As of November 2015, the solar industry was employing almost 209,000 solar workers, representing a growth rate of 20.2 percent since November 2014. By comparison, U.S. businesses as a whole added 2.4 million jobs, at an annual growth rate of just 1.74 percent.
Over the next 12 months, surveyed solar employers expect to see total employment in the solar industry increase by 14.7 percent (which is 13 times faster than the overall economy is expected to grow), to approximately 240,000 solar workers.
Of the 35,000 solar workers added since November 2014, 83 percent were newly-created positions, with the remaining 17 percent comprised of existing positions that have added solar responsibilities.
Demand-side sectors (sales and distribution, project development, and installation) make up about 80 percent of all solar industry employment. Installation firms account for the largest share of the workforce, at 57 percent.
Approximately 63 percent of the almost 209,000 jobs are in the residential market segment, while 22 percent are in utility-scale project development, and 15 percent are in the commercial market segment.
Approximately one in five surveyed employers reported that it is "very difficult" to find qualified solar employees. With the exception of manufacturing, all of the "very difficult to hire" percentages increased in 2014. Installation increased from 19.4 percent to 26.0 percent, and distribution increased from 20.0 percent to 23.4 percent.