Things are looking pretty good for the solar energy industry, according to The Solar Foundation's recently released National Solar Jobs Census.
The sixth annual report found that the U.S. solar energy industry employed 20,859 people in 2015. In case you were wondering, that's a lot. More than 35,000 workers joined the industry in 2015 alone, a 20 percent increase in growth from the previous year. Employment in solar grew 12 times faster than the national average job growth during the same time period.
The census also breaks down employment data by state — Colorado ranked 11th overall for solar employment, with installation as the top sector for jobs.
Other highlights from the report include:
- The pay for solar jobs is good: According to the report, the median wage for solar designers is about $27 per hour, while workers in sales, marketing, and customer service earn about $29 per hour. Workers in the installation sector earn a median wage of $21 per hour, while those in assembly earn $18 per hour. Every sector beats out the national median wage for jobs in the United States of $17.09 per hour.
- The solar workforce is larger than some well-established fossil fuel generation sectors: The oil and gas pipeline construction industry, which employs 129,500 workers, lost 9,500 jobs in the past year. Solar is also already three times larger than the coal mining industry. Solar employers surveyed said they expect to add more than 30,000 jobs over the next 12 months.
- The solar economy is local: Eight in 10 solar installation companies reported that their customers are in-state. Meanwhile, project developers reported that approximately 65 percent of their customer base was located in their state.
The report also notes that employers are experiencing increased difficulty in finding qualified workers compared to previous years, an issue that Ecotech Institute has noticed as well.
In a recent interview with CNN Money, Ecotech Institute President Chris Gorrie said, "The companies we're working with are begging to fill the [job] slots they have because they're growing so much.
The boom in solar doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon, which is good news for the economy, the environment, and job seekers who want to break into the solar industry.