Solar Industry Sees Market Growth, Bright Days Ahead

Despite the infamous factory closing by Solyndra -- and subsequent political fallout -- the solar industry as a whole grew 6.8 percent nationally in the 12-month period that ended in August. This growth compared to an overall U.S. job growth of less than 1 percent for the same period, according to a report released today by the Solar Foundation.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2011, a survey of solar employers, found growth in all solar market sectors, including manufacturing, installation, residential, commercial and large-scale power generation.

Industry momentum is expected to continue with a predicted market growth of 24 percent, creating 24,000 jobs in the next year, with nearly half of solar firms expected to add jobs.

The Census identified more than 17,000 solar employment sites and 100,237 solar jobs in all 50 states. California continued to be the national leader in solar employment, with 25,575 workers. Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts, respectively, rounded out the top 10 states.

Reflecting the sector growth, Sungevity announced last week the establishment of a residential solar fund, backed by Rabobank, that will support over $50 million of new U.S. residential solar lease projects. The Holland-based Rabobank is making its first investment in North American residential solar financing market.

"This new fund will support Sungevity's rapid growth and momentum, and address our project finance needs as we enter the next high growth phase for our company," said Mac Irvin, Sungevity's Chief Financial Officer in a statement.

Oakland, Calif.-based Sungevity reports monthly sales have increased ten-fold since January 2011, tripling their number of employees to 300. Overall, Sungevity has raised funds to support over $175 million in residential solar projects

Continuing with the positive solar news, Brightergy, a commercial solar integrator, announced last week it was expanding operations to the East Coast. The company is opening a Boston office with future plans for more locations.

The expansion comes on the heels of a recent investment round of $2.5 million from Texas-based Trinity Private Equity Group and the establishment of a $40 million commercial project finance fund. Brightergy is targeting small-scale solar projects with systems in the 200kw to 1MW range.

Solar photo CC-licensed by Jeremy Levine.