Nearly 143,000 and Counting: Updated State Solar Jobs Numbers for 2013

Andrea Luecke, Executive Director and President of The Solar Foundation

February 11, 2014

In late January 2014, The Solar Foundation released its National Solar Jobs Census 2013, showing that the U.S. solar industry employs 142,698 solar workers as of November 2013.  In addition to this important piece of national solar labor market research, we have also continued to focus more heavily on employment at the state level. The release of last year’s State Solar Jobs Map represented our first major foray into developing reliable state-level jobs estimates. Using the latest employment data gathered from the Census 2013 research effort and current information on the number of U.S. solar companies from the Solar Energy Industries Association’s National Solar Database, we have updated the State Solar Jobs Map with 2013 employment figures. In addition to this update, we also performed the first-ever “deep dive” into district-level solar employment in select states using our survey-based Census methodology. 

The State Solar Jobs Map and our Arizona, California, and Minnesota State Solar Jobs Census reports provide a tremendous amount of valuable information. Given this, we thought a blog post showcasing some top-level results would be in order.

 Key Takeaways

  • Over 18,000 Solar establishments employ over 142,000 workers across all 50 states, with employment growing roughly 20% in the last year alone, bringing the growth since 2010 to a whopping 53%. 
  • Solar  employment grew in 44 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Two states showed neither growth nor loss (Nevada and Colorado), and five states (Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon, and Alaska) shed workers.
  • Job growth is occurring across the nation, regardless of market maturity. In 2013, jobs were added in:
    • Leading solar markets, such as California, Hawaii, and even New Jersey saw significant job growth;
    • Fast-growing markets in Massachusetts, Georgia, and North Carolina, and;
    • Emerging markets in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Missouri.
  • Employment growth has been concentrated in the Central and Eastern states. Though nearly half of U.S. solar workers are west of the Rockies, employment in this region is growing at a slower rate (7.3%) than in either the central states (65% growth) or in those east of the Mississippi (41%).  

Who’s in the Lead?

                For 2013, the top four spots in terms of overall solar employment remain unchanged since the previous year, with California, Arizona, New Jersey, and Massachusetts still leading the pack. On their own, these four states account for almost half of the solar workers in the entire country. The rest of the top ten for total jobs, however, saw some prominent shifts. Texas and New York each moved up two spots, taking the place of Colorado(which fell from 6th to 9th place) and Pennsylvania (which dropped out of the top ten completely), respectively. North Carolina gained considerable ground, going from 18th place to 10th, with Florida as the second newcomer to the top ten.   

Results from the “Deep-Dive” States:

  • California continues to employ roughly one third of the solar industry, or 47,223 solar workers, primarily in the installation sector (representing 55% of state solar workers) but also with a strong presence in the manufacturing sector (over 22% of workers).  Over half of the state’s solar workers are located in the Greater San Francisco region, with 30% in Southern California and the Inland Empire.
  • Despite losing over 1,200 solar workers since 2012, Arizona remains the #2 state in terms of solar employment, with 8,558 workers. This figure means the state accounts for 6% of national solar employment, despite having less than 2% of the country’s population.  While installations remains its most important employment sector, at 3,311 workers, the project development sector accounts for nearly 22% of all solar workers (1,874), likely due to the presence of large-scale utility installations throughout the state. 
  • Minnesota is currently 31st in employment, but growing fast.  From 2012-2013, employment rose from 500 to 864, and is expected to increase another 28% over the next year, adding 250 new jobs.  Though currently a comparatively small market and employer of solar workers, recent policy changes in the state mean that 450 MW of new solar capacity will be installed in the state by the end of the decade, meaning great things for solar employment across the state.