Our friends at the Solar Foundation released a sneak peek at the results of their 2011 National Solar Jobs Census. It comes as no surprise to any of us working in solar that this fast growing industry continues to brighten the American economy . . .
The census data shows that 100,237 Americans are now working in the U.S. solar industry. That’s more than U.S. coal mining. That’s more than U.S. steel and iron production. That’s wayyyyyy more than U.S. crude oil and natural gas pipeline transportation. That’s real.
The 6,735 new solar jobs added between August 2010 and August 2011 amount to 6.8% annual growth – leaps and bounds better than jobs in the overall economy (up 0.7%) as well as fossil fuel electric generation (down 2%).
As with last week’s news of record solar cost reductions, this American solar jobs success did not happen by accident. It’s the direct result of federal and state policies that have built new solar power markets in communities nationwide. Mind you, actual federal investment in solar has lagged far behind spending on conventional energy resources. A recent report from DBL Investors indicated that federal subsidies going to the oil & gas industry have averaged $4.86 billion annually for 100 years. Meanwhile annual support for all renewables including solar has received less than 1/10th of that – $370 million – for just the past 15 years. Yet as data point after data point shows, solar has successfully delivered high returns on its relatively small share of government investment.
Amid the increasingly politicized fallout from last month’s Solyndra closure, it’s important to remember that our nation’s solar power industry is strong and getting stronger by the day. In fact, it’s the fastest growing industry in the U.S. It’s also worth remembering that critical policy support for solar has come from both sides of the aisle and all corners of the country. As well it should for this homegrown, job creating, safe, reliable and plentiful energy resource. Now’s no time to be backing down our commitment to this rare bright spot in our nation’s economy.
The Solar Foundation conducted the Solar Jobs Census with Green LMI (a division of BW Research Partnership) and technical assistance from Cornell University. They’ll be releasing the full report with state-specific data, workforce needs, and policy guidelines at Solar Power International in October. All the more reason we hope to see you there in Dallas!