The Solar Foundation has issued its national Solar Jobs Census 2013 showing what it calls “record-breaking job growth” in the solar industry, including a surge in the Northeast.
While California and Arizona lead with the total number of solar jobs, the New England area employs nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. solar workforce. The report ranks states both in the total number of solar jobs and employment per capita. Massachusetts and New York rank 4th and 5th in total number of jobs, but 6th and 33rd in solar jobs per capita. Vermont saw the highest growth in per capita solar jobs, jumping from 11th in the nation to No. 1 from 2012 to 2013.
Vermont Energy Investment Corporation Distributed Resources Director David Hill says the per capita ranking helps compare the state on a relative scale. “It’s basically saying that solar in Vermont is an important part of our economy and if you scale it towards the number of people here, or the size of our economy, we’re starting to be recognized as a leading market and state in solar development.”
Renewable Energy Vermont Executive Director Gabrielle Stebbens says the surge in solar development is being driven by local communities, the legislature and the solar industry. “Vermonters want to develop their own clean energy. Our legislative policy also really matters and having that support at the statehouse, and locally, is huge. Certainly the industry is being creative in terms of trying to identify where there are barriers for the customer and trying to make solutions for that.”
New York has 5,000 people working in the solar industry. New York Solar Energy Industries Association Vice President David Sandbank is also President of OnForce Solar, a Bronx-based solar installation company. He says the state is in the early stages of building a new industry, and jobs have increased with the help of state policies. “A lot of what’s driving the solar industry right now comes from Governor Cuomo and his New York Sun Initiative. The NY Sun Initiative has given solar companies, business owners and home owners the confidence that solar is an industry that’s here to stay. It allows companies to build an infrastructure. It allows us to hire new employees because we know that the governor’s committed to the industry and it won’t just go away. So we’re all here building a new industry for solar and it’s been a very positive result.”
AllEarth Renewables in Williston, Vermont designs and manufacturers ground-mounted solar systems that track and follow the sun. Spokesman Andrew Savage says the rankings from the Solar Foundation reinforce what the industry has known for a long time. “Solar creates jobs and it creates good jobs that can’t be outsourced. We have seen in the industry an explosion of manufacturing, installation, electrical, and sales jobs in the solar-sphere.”
The report noted that the solar market in Massachusetts grew by nearly 50 percent. 6,400 people are employed in the solar industry in the commonwealth.