The US solar industry grew 20% as a whole in 2015, now employing over 200,000 employees

The US solar industry grew 20% as a whole in 2015, now employing over 200,000 employees

Earlier this month, The Solar Foundation (TSF) released its annual State Solar Jobs Census, a state-by-state breakdown of its national report on the solar industry. The 177-page Solar Jobs Compendium summarizes data through Q3 2015 for each state, including growth projections for 2016. We’ll look at the major takeaways by region.

New England

  1. The Bay State is Still Booming…For Now – Massachusetts enters 2016 as the nation’s 2nd ranked solar market for jobs. Combined with having the 6th largest amount of solar capacity, these are impressive numbers for the nation’s 6th smallest state by area. For years, Massachusetts has been a leader in the solar industry, and its job market is projected to grow another 9 percent in 2016. As SREC II comes to a close and net metering leaves the state in a standstill, will solar employment continue?
  2. Connecticut’s Solid Showing – Connecticut is a very distant 2nd place to Massachusetts in New England, but boasts more installed solar capacity than the remaining four states in its division combined. The latter is due in part to the relatively small solar markets of Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, but is also a testament to the state’s successful residential market. According to the report, over 60 percent of new capacity installed in Connecticut last year was in residential, creating a solid job market for installers. As for the commercial and industrial (C&I) market, we love us some ZRECs.
  3. Legislative Barriers – The report notes that Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island all have an installed solar capacity of under 20MW. TSF partly attributes this to regulations involving the states’ net metering policies (look away, Nevada). 

Mid and South Atlantic

  1. Success in the Carolinas – With successful Q4 projections for both states, the Carolinas finished strong in their respective situations. North Carolina, a powerful solar state that we know well, doubled its capacity in 2015 to claim hold to 2nd place in installed capacity behind California. With 90% of its capacity in utility-scale projects and less room for residential installations, its job market ranks 9th. South Carolina, an emerging solar market, looked to double its total installed capacity in Q4 alone. With a projected job growth of 20 percent in 2016, South Carolina will be a small market to keep an eye on.
  2. Maryland Makes Strides – Maryland added an impressive 1,200 jobs to its solar market in 2015, ranking 12th overall in US job markets. Through Q3, the state added almost 60 percent of its new capacity through residential installations, and plans to add up to 143MW of capacity on schools in 2016. With the April passage of a community solar bill, 2016 could be an interesting year for the state, but TSF projects more tempered growth in 2016 compared to its predecessor. Meanwhile, keep an eye on the SREC market, which is starting to decline given large utility-scale projects that will stunt the state’s supply/demand balance.
  3. Installation Without Representation! – Here in the District, the 1,000 solar jobs through Q3 2015 rank 6th in the nation per capita. A solid SREC market and high energy prices have driven D.C.’s steady residential market that awaits the outcome of the proposed merger of utilities Pepco and Exelon.

The West

  1. California Reigns Supreme – No surprise here. California is the nation’s leading solar market, and it’s not even close. The size of the state brings it in at 5th in jobs per capita, but it leads virtually everywhere else. The state added over 2,000 megawatts in the first 3 quarters and over 21,000 jobs (don’t worry, we won’t take all the credit). In 2016, TSF projects 14,000 new jobs in the Golden State, a 20 percent increase. Don’t expect a new solar champion next year.
  2. Nevada’s Cliff Dive – The Census report on Nevada’s solar industry is more of a glimpse into the past. Nevada ranked as the 3rd overall jobs market for solar through Q3 2015, but that was before the December net metering ruling by the Nevada PUC. After the PUC’s bait and switch, the state has seen multiple companies move out and hundreds of jobs slashed in the industry, sure to hurt the Census numbers for this year. What was once a state projected for 20 percent growth and 1,600 new jobs in 2016 is now scrambling to pick up the pieces of a once thriving market.

With the extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), much of the 2016 growth projections could end up much different than they were at the end of Q3 2015 when the census data was gathered. Interested in joining the growing industry? Sol Systems is hiring! To learn more about solar energy careers with Sol Systems, please visit our careers page.

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Sol Systems is a solar energy finance and investment firm. The company has facilitated financing for over 400MW of solar projects on behalf of Fortune 100 corporations, insurance companies, utilities, banks, family offices, and individuals. Sol Systems provides secure, sustainable investment opportunities to investor clients, and sophisticated project financing solutions to developers. The company’s tailored financial services range from tax structured investments, project acquisition and SREC portfolio management. Inc. Magazine named Sol Systems on its annual Inc. 500 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for a second consecutive year, ranking it No. 6 in the nation’s top solar companies in 2014. For more information, please visit www.solsystems.com.