The number of jobs tied to the U.S. solar energy sector increased by nearly 20 percent in 2013, according to an annual survey by the Solar Foundation released Monday.
The foundation, a nonprofit educational and statistical arm of the industry, found an estimated 142,628 solar workers in the U.S. economy — defined as those who spend 50 percent or more of their time supporting solar-related activities — as of November 2013. It was the fastest job growth in the survey’s four-year history.
California’s booming solar market should figure prominently when state and local data are released next month.
Of 23,682 estimated new U.S. solar jobs, about half were devoted to the installation of solar equipment.
The average solar installer earned about $23 an hour, comparable to some skilled electricians and plumbers, and higher than the average rate for roofers and construction laborers.
Jobs in project development grew at the fastest rate, more than doubling to 12,169, followed by sales and distribution jobs that grew by about 24 percent to more than 22,500.
Jobs in solar equipment manufacturing were virtually unchanged, at 29,851.
“It was a vast improvement over last year, where we lost about 8,000 solar manufacturing jobs,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the foundation.
Photovoltaic panel manufacturers in the U.S. have struggled to overcome a glut in worldwide capacity.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has set anti-dumping duties on some solar-energy cells imported from China, and is again assessing whether solar power products from China and Taiwan are propped up by inappropriate foreign government subsidies or being “dumped” on the U.S. market below cost.
U.S. solar production and assembly workers earned less than installers, averaging between $15 and $18.23 an hour.
The Solar Foundation forecast 15.6 percent job growth for 2014 based on expectations expressed by employers. About 45 percent of the firms surveyed plan to add solar workers, while 2 percent plan personnel cuts.
Survey results had an error margin of 1.3 percentage points. Responses came from 2,081 solar firms, while more than 73,000 phone calls were made to potential solar firms across the U.S.
Of those who met the survey definition for “solar worker,” about 91 percent spent all of their time working with solar energy.
Article source: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jan/27/solar-jobs-accelerate/