Solar industry employment continues to grow in Delaware


Despite headwinds, solar industry employment in Delaware continued to grow in 2017.

Total solar industry employment in the U.S. was down for 2017, but Delaware saw its job count increase nearly 51 percent to more than 550 in 2017.

The Delaware job totals came from the National Solar Jobs Census 2017.

Overall, the industry saw a pause in its growth as concern grew over tariffs for panels made in some nations.

The Trump administration did impose the tariffs, which will gradually decline over the next few years.

Delaware is punching slightly above its weight in solar jobs, ranking 42nd among the 50 states. Delaware ranks about 45th in population. The First State ranks in the top 25 in solar jobs per capita.

Delaware’s job totals are affected by its proximity to more populated states like Pennsylvania and Maryland, a short drive for installers that can keep operations in the two states and still serve the First State.

Delaware has worked to encourage the use of solar energy but lost its solar manufacturing industry several years ago with the closing of the Motech (formerly GE and AstroPower).

TheSolar Jobs Censusfound that 250,271 Americans work in solar as of 2017, representing a 3.8 percent decline, or about 9,800 fewer jobs, since 2016. This is the first year that jobs have decreased since theSolar Jobs Censuswas first released in 2010.

However, the long-term trend continues to show significant jobs growth. The solar workforce increased by 168 percent in the past seven years, from about 93,000 jobs in 2010 to over 250,000 jobs in 2017.

“After six years of rapid and steady growth, the solar industry faced headwinds that led to a dip in employment in 2017, including a slowdown in the pace of new solar installations,” saidAndrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation. “Uncertainty over the outcome of the trade case also had a likely impact on solar jobs growth. At the same time, the fact that jobs went up in 29 states is an encouraging sign that solar is taking hold across the country as a low-cost, sustainable, and reliable energy source.”

The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit educational and research organization, issues theNational Solar Jobs Censuseach year to provide comprehensive and reliable data on the U.S. solar workforce. This year’sCensusis based on a rigorous survey of solar establishments conducted between October and November 2017. TheCensusdefines a solar employee as someone who spends at least 50 percent of his or her time on solar-related work.

Other key findings include:

  • Demand-side sectors (installation, sales & distribution, and project development) make up almost 78 percent of overall solar industry employment, while manufacturing makes up 15 percent.Demand-side sectors lost approximately 7,500 jobs in 2017, while manufacturing lost about 1,200 jobs.
  • The solar industry is more diverse than comparable industries, but more needs to be done to ensure it is representative of the greater U.S. population.Women made up 27 percent of the solar workforce in 2017, down 1 percent from 2016. Veterans made up 9 percent of solar workers, which is 2 percent more than the overall U.S. workforce.
  • Solar employs twice as many workers as the coal industry, almost five times as many as nuclear power, and nearly as many workers as the natural gas industry.(These comparisons with otherindustries are based on 2016 jobs numbers, the most recent data available for an apples-to-apples comparison.)

This year’sCensussurvey included approximately 59,300 phone calls and over 35,000 emails. Information was gathered from 2,389 establishments, of which 1,842 completed or substantially completed the survey. This level of sampling rigor provides a margin of error of +/- 1.25% for the national employment numbers.

The completeNational Solar Jobs Censuscan be found

“Although uncertainty over the tariff restrained the industry in recent months, the fact remains that solar energy is the lowest-cost, cleanest, most abundant and accessible energy source in the world,” saidLynn Jurich, Sunrun CEO. “Sunrun expanded into seven new markets last year and we will continue to create valuable local jobs, and bring new solar products and services to Americans.”

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