As I’ve written before, solar projects produce more jobs per $1 invested than nearly any other type of energy or infrastructure project. If you haven’t seen this infographic, I think it’s worth viewing, saving, and sharing:
With Labor Day 2013 just ending, this seems like a point worth highlighting in a bit more detail. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) last week released a report that did just this (while also including some interesting and useful information about jobs from other clean power and clean transportation sectors). Below are a few key details from the report, which is titled, Clean Energy Works For US: 2013 Second Quarter Clean Energy / Clean Transportation Jobs Report [PDF].
To start with, even compared to other sectors of the fast-growing and job-centric clean energy economy, solar led the way in terms of US jobs created in the second quarter of 2013. In total, 10,419 solar jobs were announced. As a whole, 38,600 clean energy jobs were announced in that time period. Following solar power were public transportation at 9,649 new jobs; smart grid at 8,200 new jobs; and energy efficiency at 5,778 new jobs. Wind power logged in at 2,524, followed by several other industries that logged in under 1,000 jobs each. Here’s a table with some more details:
“Solar generation projects accounted for more than 10,400 jobs announced this quarter, which equaled 75 percent of the jobs announced in the power-generation sector and 25 percent of the total number of jobs tracked across all clean energy sectors in the second quarter (see table 2),” E2 wrote in the report. “The growth in solar power jobs is happening all across the country from California to North Carolina.”
As you can see in the following screenshot of an interactive solar jobs map, solar jobs were announced across the US:
Of course, total US solar jobs far surpass those announced in Q2 2013. Based on 2012 Solar Census data (which is different from the data E2 collected and shared in the above report), the Clean Energy Works For US website notes:
More than 119,000 Americans work in the solar energy industry, with 13-percent year-over-year job growth between 2011-12. Most solar jobs – more than 57,000 – are on the installation side. Other positions include manufacturing, sales, and management. Increasingly common sights on rooftops and in fields across the country, photovoltaic cells directly convert sunlight into electricity, helping lower electric bills for homeowners, farmers, and businesses. Larger, utility-scale solar developments are being built on land with limited economic value. For example, in California’s Antelope Valley, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary is developing the world’s largest solar farm.
US Solar Power Growth Fuels Job Growth
As I noted at the top, the fact that solar does so well in the job creation field for each $1 invested is of course important and one of the reasons why solar is leading the way in job creation. However, another key fact is simply that the US solar power sector is growing very fast.
“The United States surpassed 10 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar power in the first half of 2013, which is enough to power around 2 million homes, joining the ranks of Germany, Italy, and China with double-digit GWs of solar capacity,” E2 wrote in the new report.
The title of an article I wrote in June was, “Advantages of Solar Energy = Massive Solar Growth (Check Out These Charts!).” Check out these two charts from that article:
And also check out this chart from a later article about the exponential growth of distributed solar PV installations in the US:
Why US Solar Power & Solar Jobs Are Booming
Naturally, this massive solar power boost (and the subsequent solar jobs boost) is not simply a coincidence. You don’t get charts like those above for no good reason.
Solar power is growing fast because the cost of solar panels has fallen dramatically, making electricity from one’s own solar power system actually cheaper than electricity from the grid for millions (or even hundreds of millions) of people and businesses.
That is the clincher. (Check out how much you’re projected to save from switching to solar here.)
But there are many other advantages to solar power that also help to make solar an obvious choice for those who have the option. In the article linked above, I actually count eight considerable advantages to solar energy versus zero considerable disadvantages.
Though, again, it all comes down to cost for most people. The reason solar is finally skyrocketing is because it is cheaper than alternatives and offers a very competitive return on investment (for those who would like to view it as an investment and weigh it against other high-return investments). In 13 states (see the link above), going solar actually beats the S&P 500 in terms of IRR. In 43 states, it beats a standard 5-year CD.
Anyway, for you, it all comes down to the specifics of your home or business, your state’s incentives, the local or regional installers who could put solar on your roof, and so on, so just get a freakin’ quote so that you can help spur along the solar jobs boom while benefiting financially yourself.