Although the solar industry hit a rough patch back in 2008 and 2009 due to the recession, it has been making a very powerful comeback ever since. In 2011 there were 105,145 workers in the solar panel industry and in 2012 there were nearly 15,000 jobs added, pushing the total number of workers to 119,016. What is even better news is that the projections for 2013 point to another year of strong growth.
Of the new workers added, the majorities, or 57,177, were hired as installers. The installation sector continues to be the largest employer in the U.S. solar industry, and remains a source of highly skilled jobs that cannot be outsourced by their very nature (It would be very difficult for a Chinese factory worker to install solar panels on your roof). Additional good news is that a lot of this installer growth occurred at larger firms. This could mean that the U.S. solar industry is becoming ever more consolidated and mature which will, consequently, make the entire industry more robust and stable.
The industry sector with the largest growth rate was the solar Research and Development. This sector posted a 46.1 percent increase which brought the total number of Research and Development workers to 8,105. Like the installation sector, this is another sector that requires a large number of highly skilled works.
Another sector that showed impressive growth was the Sales and Distribution sector. It experienced a 23.1 percent increase and now employs 16,005 workers. This is another example of a sector in the solar industry that can’t be easily outsourced.
According to the National Solar Jobs Census there will be approximately 20,000 new jobs added this year, which would amount to an impressive 17.2 percent growth. The census also reported that there are currently 8,813 solar installation companies in the United States and 44percent of these firms report plans to expand operations this year.
Solar Tech Becoming More Affordable
Other encouraging factors found by the census are that 31 percent of these companies saw lowered system component prices, which inevitably caused a decrease in retail prices. This no doubt led to the census’s other finding that for the first time ever the majority of these company’s revenue came from solar projects.
A projection from a different source forecasts that by 2014 the solar industry will be seeing revenues close to $96.8 billion globally. That is up from actual global revenue of $46.3 billion in 2009. All of these factors are encouraging but perhaps the most encouraging factor is that 92 percent of voters approve the expansion of solar research and development.
Not all of the companies in the solar industry have fared equally, however. Manufactures like Abound Solar, LSP Energy, Bright Source and the most well-known company Solyndra have filed for bankruptcy in the last few years.
Even with these failures the solar industry has continued to grow. A great example of this ambitious attitude is the goal made by Colorado’s solar-energy industry, which has set a goal to grow the state's solar power tenfold to 3,000 megawatts by 2030.
It appears that the future shines very bright for America’s solar industry.
About the Author: Lindsey Patterson is a freelance writer who specializes in technology and the latest social trends. She is currently acting as a consultant to Vivint Solar. You can follow Vivint on Facebook here.