Solar Jobs Still on the Rise Despite Industry Woes

The solar sector’s problems may reach far and wide, but the employment around the industry actually is still growing. A new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association will be formally released in about two weeks called the National Solar Jobs Census 2012, but the preliminary data is showing that the jobs tied to solar power are still on the rise.

If the data is accurate and is not revised, then there are just over 119,000 workers employed by the solar industry in the United States. This translates to 13% growth. The report says:

Initial results from the 2012 census found that the solar industry now employs 119,016 Americans across all 50 states, having grown 13.2 percent over last year during difficult economic times across the nation. In 2011, the solar energy industry employed 105,145 workers, while 93,502 were employed by solar companies in 2010.

One key driver was said to be the solar investment tax credit. What is bad news for those making and selling solar panels is apparently good for the industry’s ability to grow: one-third of respondents cited the continued decline in solar energy prices as the primary driver of employment growth.

We now have data showing just how large, or small, the solar industry really is: the U.S. today has 5,700 megawatts of installed solar energy capacity. This is enough to power more than 940,000 households, and the industry expects to nearly double its growth over last year by adding 3.2 gigawatts by the end of the year and another 3.9 gigawatts in 2013.

Another sign of growth is backward looking, but the report today showed that the previously reported solar employment figure for 2011 was revised higher to 105,145 from 100,237.

Keep in mind that the report is not just from the panel makers who are having such a hard time with their profits. This includes some 31 different occupations from more than 1,000 solar company survey respondents. The margin of error is only +/-1.5%.

The full report is available here.

Shares of First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) may be dragging the entire solar bias down this morning because of a poor earnings and guidance report last night. Shares are down about 8% at $22.77. It is interesting that this report is also on the heels of a report that Siemens A.G. (NYSE: SI) is planning to exit the solar market. Elsewhere, SolarCity has recently filed for an initial public offering.


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