Solar Industry's Hiring 'Pause'

February 12, 2019
light shining through tree limbs
Photo: Unsplash/Patrick Selin

In 2018, the solar industry lost 8,000 positions annually, or 3.2 percent. Rather than an omen of a downturn, industry experts say the slowdown is a "breather" before greater growth.

Ed Gilliland, senior director of The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit seeking to streamline mainstream adoption of solar energy systems, tells Fast Company that part of the current chill comes from the Trump administration tariffs on solar imports set at the start of 2018. Overall, says Gilliland, “there’s reason to be optimistic," as the number of active utility-scale solar projects is the highest on record, and 2019 is the last year that developers can use the 30 percent federal tax credit offered for residential solar projects.“All you need to do to get the tax credit is have a shovel in the ground, so to speak.” The Solar Foundation estimates 7 percent growth in total solar jobs by year's end.

But Gilliland and Luecke maintain that the focus on overall solar trends also masks some important gains at the state levels. Twenty-nine states actually experienced growth in jobs last year. In Florida, for instance, state regulators just began allowing residential solar in 2017. And the number of solar jobs in the state grew by 1,769 since then to leap Massachusetts and take second place behind California in terms of solar employment. And following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico has doubled down on expanding its solar market, and it’s poised to add more jobs and capacity in the future.

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