National uncertainty in energy policy tamped down job growth in the solar energy industry nationally, and state policy that made solar unaffordable for most Nevadans exacerbated the slowdown in Nevada last year.
But solar companies said the trend has reversed, and Nevada is ready to once again assume a leadership position in the solar economy, after key policy changes in 2017 that restored the rooftop solar industry to the state and began to bring back thousands of lost jobs.
Additionally, a number of large solar projects have been announced in recent months, including news today from Switch that it will partner with Capital Dynamics to build 1 gigawatt of solar in Nevada, enough to power 1 million homes and create 1,250 construction jobs.
Nevada ranks 10th in the nation for solar jobs and second in the nation per capita.
According to the National Solar Jobs Census for 2017, the eighth annual report on solar employment released today by The Solar Foundation, 250,271 Americans worked in the solar industry last year. That’s down 3.8 percent nationally. And Nevada solar jobs, at 6,564 workers in 2017, were down 22 percent from the previous year.
But those numbers reflect the devastating impact of a job-killing ruling by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. After public outcry, legislators, the Governor, and regulators came together to restore the solar industry to the state. During its 2017 session, the Nevada Legislature passed and Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 405 to reestablish fair “net metering” credits for residential solar investors. It was one of nine clean-energy bills signed into law last summer in Nevada.
Clean energy advocates and workers in the solar energy say they have already seen clear signs of a reversal of the downward trend in solar employment, thanks to these new laws, as well as a clear commitment by new members of the Public Utilities Commission to clean energy.
The promise of a recovery in the solar industry comes as the state’s largest electric utility, NV Energy, has also pledged to double the percentage of its power that comes from clean energy within five years.
"Since the passage of AB 405, I've had the great pleasure of rehiring dozens of our workers who I was previously forced to lay off because of anti-solar net metering changes,” said Larry Cohen, branch manager for Sunrun, a national solar installation firm with offices in Las Vegas. “We know from this past year that the solar industry is vulnerable to federal overreach, such as the recently imposed, job-killing solar tariffs. But with the continued support of Nevada lawmakers, I'm confident the rooftop solar market in Nevada can remain strong."
The hiring uptick was echoed by solar companies throughout the state.
“Robco Electric is happy to announce that our solar sales have increased over 1,000 percent since the signing of AB405,” said Rob Kowalczik, president of Robco Electric, a Las Vegas-based company. “Robco Electric solar team has increased by 300 percent and these are all Nevadans put back to work in the solar industry.”
"Since the passage of AB 405, Radiant Solar Solutions has put to work an additional 37 people who were previous solar workers or newly trained workers," said Kevin Romney, manager of Radiant Solar Solutions in Las Vegas. "That is 37 more families with good incomes. Thirty-seven more people helping Nevadans go solar, saving both the environment and their hard earned dollars."
"There were some dark days in our industry after the PUC decision in December 2015," said Louise Helton, an owner and executive with 1 Sun Solar in Las Vegas. "It took a while for the impacts to really set in, but the industry, which had been growing, was decimated. Fortunately, the Legislature, Governor and the PUC took corrective action last year and got us back on track. Even with new federal tariffs on solar panels, I'm confident that we're going to see strong growth in clean solar installations of all kinds in the years to come."
“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to relaunch our business operations in Nevada last year,” said Vivint Solar CEO David Bywater. “Nevadans have eagerly embraced the return of solar energy, which has allowed us to provide local jobs and contribute to the state’s economy.”