Great news for the California solar industry: there were 75,598 solar workers by November 2015, according to a report from the Solar Foundation.
There were about 38.2% more solar jobs in California in 2015, compared with the previous year. Additionally, there could be 18.9% growth in 2016, or the addition of 14,300 new solar jobs. In 2016, the total number of solar jobs in California could reach 90,000, which would almost be how many there were in the entire US for year 2010.
“Other states are chugging along, but California’s surging ahead. It’s like a snowball gaining speed and momentum as it flies down the mountain,” explained Andrea Luecke, the Solar Foundation’s executive director.
The utility-scale market was noted in the report as being a key driver of new solar job growth. The cost of utility-scale PV systems has declined and utilities have been trying to meet targets defined by the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Residential solar still matters obviously, “As of Q3 2015, the California residential solar market segment accounted for nearly 50% of all cumulative residential solar capacity in the United States. The success of this market segment was spurred by a statewide solar rebate program, falling installed costs for solar, and a net energy metering (NEM) policy that valued net excess solar generation at retail utility rates.”
Remember that old nonsense about ‘jobs vs. the environment’? In the case of solar power, it clearly is better for the environment, better for human health, and it can create jobs. Critics of solar power might say these solar jobs are probably low-paying and non-skilled, but they would be incorrect.
An article from the UC-Berkeley Labor Center explained some of the advantages of solar jobs,
“A solar study we published last November estimates that 10,200 well-paying job years (that is, one full-time job for one year, or 2080 hours) were created in the construction of utility-scale solar farms in California in the last five years. Using data taken directly from the labor contracts governing these construction projects, we found that the utility-scale blue-collar construction jobs in California, which employ union labor, pay, on average, $78,000 per year (about $39 per hour) and offer solid health and pension benefits. In addition to providing good wages and benefits for union workers, all unionized employers participate in state-approved apprenticeship programs, investing millions of dollars in training so workers gain broad occupations skills that can be used not only in renewable energy projects but also all kinds of other projects where their craft is needed.”
So, solar power jobs are not fast food jobs with low pay and low skill development. They most likely are going to be much better than some of the jobs added to a state economy. Also, the solar power industry is most likely going to continue growing, so people employed in it might experience some stability.
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