Man installing solar panels

The U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013, according to The Solar Foundation’s four annual National Jobs Solar Census. The figure includes 23,683 more jobs than the previous year, or a 19.9 percent growth in employment. That means solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment rate of 1.9 percent in the same period.

The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit solar research and education organization. The full report is available at here. In February, TCF will release state-by-state jobs numbers, including a more detailed analysis of the California, Arizona, and Minnesota solar markets.

According to TSF, solar companies report that cost savings are driving their clients’ decision making, as 51.4 percent of customers report going solar to save money, and another 22.9 percent because costs are now competitive with utility rates.

“Tens of thousands of new living-wage jobs have been created over the past year thanks to plunging solar technology costs, increasing consumer demand, and supportive government policies,” said Amit Ronen, director of The George Washington University Solar Institute. “As the nation’s fastest growing energy source, we expect the solar industry will continue to generate robust job growth for at least the next decade.”

TSF points to the following notable findings from the report:

  • Seventy-seven percent of the nearly 24,000 new solar workers since September 2012 are new jobs, rather than existing positions that have added solar responsibilities, representing 18,211 new jobs created.
  • This comparison indicates that since data were collected for Census 2012, one in every 142 new jobs in the U.S. was created by the solar industry, and many more were saved by creating additional work opportunities for existing employees.
  • Installers added the most solar workers over the past year, growing by 22 percent, an increase of 12,500 workers.
  • Solar employment is expected to grow by 15.6 percent over the next 12 months, representing the addition of approximately 22,240 new solar workers. Forty-five percent of all solar establishments expect to add solar employees during this period.
  • Employers from each of the solar industry sectors examined in this study expect significant employment growth over the next 12 months, with nearly all of them projecting percentage job growth in the double-digits.
  • Approximately 91 percent of those who meet our definition of a “solar worker” (those workers who spend at least 50 percent of their time supporting solar-related activities) spent 100 percent of their time working on solar.
  • Wages paid by solar firms are competitive, with the average solar installer earning between $20 (median) and $23.63 (mean) per hour, which is comparable to wages paid to skilled electricians and plumbers and higher than average rates for roofers and construction workers. Production and assembly workers earn slightly less, averaging $15 (median) to $18.23 (mean) per hour, slightly more than the national average for electronic equipment assemblers.
  • The solar industry is a strong employer of veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, who constitute 9.24 percent of all solar workers—compared with 7.57 percent in the national economy. Solar employs a slightly larger proportion of Latino/Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander workers than the overall economy.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2013 was conducted by TSF and BW Research Partnership with support from the GW Solar Institute. The report, derived from data collected from more than 2,081 solar firms, measured employment growth in the solar industry between September 2012 and November 2013. The margin of error of this data set is +/-1.3 percent, significantly lower than any similar national industry study.