Clean Power

Published on January 17th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor


More US Solar Jobs Than Oil + Gas Extraction & Pipeline Jobs (Combined) In 2015

January 17th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Sustainnovate.
By Henry Lindon

US Solar Jobs Greater Than Oil + Gas Extraction & Pipeline Sectors Combined

The newest Solar Jobs Census from the Solar Foundation was recently released, giving us some interesting insights into the US solar industry.

Amongst the most interesting of the report’s notes is that the solar workforce in the US grew 20% in 2015 (for the third straight year); and that the solar industry created more jobs than the oil and gas extraction + pipeline sectors combined.

Altogether, the US solar industry added jobs roughly 12 times faster than the other parts of the country’s economy added jobs, according to the report. To be more specific, the solar industry added 35,052 new jobs — bringing the total up to 208,859. This compares to the addition of 31,000 jobs in 2014, and 23,600 in 2013.

“It’s incredible,” stated SolarCity CEO and co-founder Lyndon Rive. “The industry employs over 200,000 people — more than the coal industry.”

Climate Progress provides more:

The census found that even just the US solar installation sector employed 77% more people than the coal mining industry. Installers have reported the most job growth by far, with project development, sales, and distribution also rising.

Most of these jobs (83%) were new positions, and 65% were in the installation sector. Solar ranked third behind wind and gas power capacity in 2015, with over two gigawatts being added to the grid across several states. Companies expect this trend to continue as costs keep declining — over two dollars per watt over the last 5 years.

…The census measures employment in the time period preceding November 2015, and uses company surveys, growth trends, and extrapolations similar to those used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to arrive at its totals. It includes all direct solar company jobs and some indirect solar-focused positions. This ranges from installation to sales, finance to R&D.

The findings of the report derive from “a statistically valid sampling and survey that went to nearly 400,000 establishments throughout the nation,” reportedly.

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  • Ivor O’Connor

    With so many jobs can’t somebody make a headhunting agency specializing in transitioning legacy positions in the fossil fuel dinosaur industry to the solar industry? There would be so many “wins” for all it would be hard to count.

    • Ivor O’Connor

      And it would destroy the monopolies currently getting sympathy PR by playing on the grief they cause to their employees.

    • brunurb

      I like the headhunting agency idea! we just need to make sure that it includes a very robust training program for not only solar install jobs, but things like general computer knowledge. I’m fully aware that this is a generalization, but a guy who has been working in a coal mine for 20 years or out on an oil rig in the gulf of mexico is probably not as technologically knowledgeable as a guy who went to college and took a couple of computer classes. Different skill sets of course, but one of those skill sets is in decline… and if we don’t do something about it, there’s going to be more unemployment even with more solar/cleantech jobs available.

  • jburt56

    About 100 kW / yr for each installer.

  • Harry Johnson

    Hillary and Bernie need to mention this in every speech.

    • eveee

      Yep. This is a big political stick.

  • Shiggity

    A word of caution on ‘jobs’ numbers.

    A minimum wage job is not the same thing as a livable wage job.

    I need to see what the average salary in the solar market is. Does a company like SolarCity pay their employees decent wages?

    I’m not defending fossil fuels so much as defending the high pay that is present in that industry.

    Creating tons of jobs is useless if they all pay under a livable wage. This concept needs to be reinforced everywhere. Millenials are being crushed by *underemployment*, not unemployment. There’s plenty of jobs that don’t pay a livable wage you can get right now, have fun being a slave though / being perpetually in debt.

    • Steven F

      I did a SolarCity salary search on google and apparently an installer can earn $16 an hour or about $32,000 a year Non-installation jubs (system designer, sales, and service positions pay more.

      • Matt

        The rate also goes up with skills. Not all installers do the same job.

      • Tim

        A Coal Mine Worker earns an average wage of $21.63 per hour.Plus, it’s way dangerous and you don’t get to see the sun. Also, you will eventually die from prolonged exposure of your alveoli to the crap you’re making everyone else on the planet breathe – except you first. I think Shiggity makes a very poor point.

    • eveee

      I agree, but caution that some of the alternative “new” economy jobs are ride share, a miserable option by comparison with little benefits and much risk. Solar jobs are a step up by comparison.

    • brunurb

      I think the high pay for some fossil industry jobs is due in part to the danger/risk involved in those jobs- people out on deep water oil rigs, or in coal mines for example. Solar installers have the risk of falling off a roof, or electrocution i suppose, but I think in general those would be considered much less “dangerous”, and the pay would reflect that (of course there are many other factors to consider, but that was one that popped into my head when reading this).

      Also for things like coal mining jobs, you have to consider things like lung cancer, and health after-effects. Is that worth the extra pay? For some people sure, but I would rather have a lower paying job where I know I’m not going to be exposed to toxins all day every day.

      Counting my blessings here- I have the best of both worlds, a well-paying job and no danger (except sitting too much!) but I know there are parts of the world and of the USA where options are limited (location, education/training, etc) I just wish I knew what the answer was.

  • Matt

    Other item to note is that the “tariffs” to protect US jobs was the ~22k manu jobs (almost flat 2010-2015) and hurt the other jobs. So while it might have been “correct” legally it was bad for the economy.
    Likely in the report, but regional precent would have been interesting. Which states are welcome this growth and which fight it.

  • JamesWimberley

    Wait for the talking point that the solar jobs are just a bubble and will collapse when installation stops. Which is true, since there are few steady-state jobs in maintenance jobs – but decades ahead, on a horizon where no industry is safe except taxmen and funeral directors..

    • Brent Jatko

      This is essentially true as there is no need for “tweaking” existing fields/pipelines as in oil and gas production and distribution.

    • Tim

      Not true. Panels need to be replaced every 25 or maybe even 30 years. Installation of enough solar to help us achieve a 100% renewable energy mix will take at least that long – so, probably pretty self sustaining.

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