- Despite what some may say, the solar industry now employs twice as many people as the coal industry in the US today
- The jobs right now are mainly in manual installation, and as more solar becomes more common, there is hope that other jobs will be created to keep up with improving technology
The Rise of Renewables
The US’ renewable energy industry is currently thriving. A survey released by The Solar Foundation shows that the solar industry has nearly tripled employment since they started tracking its growth back in 2010.
According to the study, 260,000 people are now employed by the solar industry. The majority of positions are currently in installation, with workers earning an average of $25.96 per hour. The biggest market so far, is residential, which encompasses 41 percent of available jobs; with the commercial and utility-scale markets trailing behind.
The Solar Foundation reports:
Solar employs slightly more workers than natural gas, over twice as many as coal, over three times that of wind energy, and almost five times the number employed in nuclear energy. Only oil/petroleum has more employment (by 38%) than solar.
To date, California has the biggest solar capacity in the US, accounting for 34 percent of installations in 2016. But as the study notes, states such as New Jersey, New York, Texas, South Carolina, and Utah have also seen a significant rise in solar installations.
Fast Growing Industry
Right now, solar energy accounts for only 1.3 percent of the US’ electricity, but it is poised for unprecedented growth. Case in point, last year, solar only accounted for just one in every 50 jobs in the country. Today, it has already overtaken traditional jobs offered in the coal energy industry.
Since solar is still a burgeoning industry, the physical installation element still keeps costs up. But, as technology advances and the labor-intensive nature of the solar industry lessens, costs will only continue to drop and the renewable resource will be a more prominent source of energy.
Once solar becomes a dominant energy source, it’s possible that the industry might not deliver the volume of manual job opportunities it initially did. However, as with all industries, advancements in technology will create a need for alternate types of jobs. This transition to renewable resources will not only create new types of jobs but make current workplace efforts less costly because of lowering solar energy costs. As the future becomes the present and the nature of solar energy work changes, one thing remains
As the future becomes the present and the nature of solar energy work changes, one thing remains constant. The more fossil fuel sources that can be replaced by renewable energy, the better off we all will be. From the financial burden of fossil fuel to the impending realities of climate change, renewable energy like solar will only become a more necessary resource.