Colorado Leads Nation in Per Capita Solar Jobs

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U.S. Solar jobs census finds solar employment soars while economy lags. More than 6,100 employed by Colorado solar industry, up 16% over last year as number of solar jobs surpass number of mining jobs in Colorado

Staff-Reported

DALLAS – The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit solar education and research organization, today released its second annual review of the solar workforce in the United States. The report, titled, “National Solar Jobs Census 2011: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce” found that hiring in the solar workforce is on the rise. More than 100,000 Americans are now employed in the solar industry, with more than 6,100 of those jobs in Colorado.

“The solar industry has grown into a major economic force with more than 100,000 employees,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation. “We expect even greater growth in the foreseeable future. But policymakers, workforce training providers, and the industry must work together to continue creating good jobs for skilled workers.”

As of August 2011, the National Solar Jobs Census 2011 identified an estimated 1,020 solar businesses and 6,186 solar jobs in Colorado. That makes Colorado the #1 state in the nation in solar jobs per capita and the #2 state in solar jobs overall.

“Colorado is a national leader in solar innovation and job creation,” said Neal Lurie, Executive Director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association. “From GE’s new solar manufacturing plant to Dow Solar’s innovative new solar shingles, the technology of tomorrow is generating jobs today. Colorado’s entrepreneurial climate, commitment to clean energy, and growing customer demand have developed solar into a powerful economic driver.”

The number of solar workers — defined as those workers who spend at least 50% of their time supporting solar-related activities — increased in Colorado by 16% over the previous year. Solar job growth in Colorado is more than 20 times faster than job growth for the overall U.S. economy.

In fact, Colorado’s more than 6,100 solar jobs now exceed the number of mining jobs, estimated at about 5,000 by the Colorado Mining Association.

While Colorado is ranked #1 in solar employment on a per capita basis, the top 10 states for total number of solar jobs are California, Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts showed the strongest growth rates from August 2010.

Nationally, the Census identified an estimated 17,198 solar employment sites and 100,237 solar jobs in all 50 states. The National Solar Jobs Census 2011 also found that solar employers expect to increase the number of solar workers by 24 percent, representing nearly 24,000 net new jobs by August 2012. Over the next 12 months, nearly half of solar firms expect to add jobs.

“These survey responses merely reflect employers’ best estimates at expected new hiring, but it demonstrates a clear growth pattern for the industry and tremendous optimism by employers in the industry,” said Luecke. “Employers expressed similar optimism last year, but failed to meet their hiring expectations because of stalled legislative initiatives and continued policy uncertainty.”

The survey examined employment along the solar value chain, including installation, wholesale trade, manufacturing, utilities and all other fields and includes growth rates and job numbers for 31 separate occupations. The report included data from more than 2,100 solar company survey respondents. Information was collected in July and August 2011. The data do not capture the government, academic, or nonprofit sectors, nor many of the research and development firms, finance and accounting establishments, law offices, or other ancillary employers that do solar work.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2011 was conducted by The Solar Foundation and BW Research Partnership’s Green LMI Consulting division with technical assistance from Cornell University. 

“The National Solar Jobs Census is an important reference because the previous lack of data about solar employment was presenting difficulties to policymakers and training providers,” said Philip Jordan, Chief Business Officer at BW Research Partnership. “The Solar Foundation is helping to fill that gap with solid research that allows us to draw important conclusions about the solar industry with a high degree of confidence, while giving training providers, job seekers, and the general public the critical information they need to understand the solar labor market.”

“The jobs census is setting a new standard for clean energy job studies. By using high-quality research methodology, we can ensure that these numbers are as accurate as possible,” said John Bunge, Associate Professor in the Department of Statistical Science at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations. “The use of both primary and secondary data sources, along with careful statistical analysis, gives us high confidence in the results.  We expect our rigorous methodology to be extended to econometric studies of green jobs beyond the solar industry.”

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Background Materials:
National Solar Jobs Census 2011:
http://thesolarfoundation.org/research/national-solar-jobs-census-2011 
National Solar Jobs Census 2010:
http://thesolarfoundation.org/research/national-solar-jobs-census

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