Solar industry added 31,000 jobs last year, census finds

Solar industry added 31,000 jobs last year, census finds

Shutterstock Daniel Schweinert

This article originally appeared on Sustainable Business.

The 2014 National Solar Jobs Census is in, and it has great news for the United States.

According to the census, done yearly by the Solar Foundation, 173,807 people are employed by the solar industry, which added 31,000 jobs last year — a growth rate of 21.8 percent from 2013. When you add in the indirect jobs it stimulates, the industry contributes to 700,000 jobs.

Solar employment grew nearly 20 times faster than the national average of 1.1 percent, far outpacing fossil fuel jobs, the census indicated. 

Fossil jobs created in 2014:

  • Oil and gas pipeline construction: 10,529
  • Oil and natural gas industry: 8,688
  • Total employment for coal mining is 93,185; oil and gas, 216,000

You can see the solar industry grew more than expected:

This year, the solar industry expects to add 35,000 jobs, bringing the total to 210,060, a 20.9 percent increase.

Not surprisingly, solar installers account for 97,000 jobs, followed by manufacturing at 32,000, sales at 21,000 and project development at 15,000.

And they are well-paying jobs, averaging $20-$24 an hour for installers and $44 an hour in sales, with a diverse workforce, 10 percent of whom are veterans. 

SolarCity is the biggest employer with 9,000 workers, hiring 4,000 in 2014. 

"The solar sector has grown an extraordinary 86 percent in the last four years, adding approximately 81,000 jobs. One out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. over the past 12 months was created by the solar industry — nearly 1.3 percent of all jobs," said Andrea Luecke, executive director of the Solar Foundation, which conducts the annual census. Of them, 73,000 are in California, but they are spread across the U.S.

Major solar installers announced new infusions of cash to keep the ball rolling. SolarCity got $350 million from JP Morgan, following $170 million last year. It's also getting $200 million from Credit Suisse for the new MyPower initiative, essentially a solar loan. Sunrun closed a $195 million deal with Investec.

To read the full report, visit the Solar Foundation.