By Karen Schaufeld
Solar energy is a job creator. In 2016, the number of solar power workers in the USA in 2016 was 373, 807, vs. 187,117 in the fossil fuels sector, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Solar power jobs also are higher paying jobs – $26 per hour is the median wage for solar installers.
During the 2017 General Assembly, Virginia legislators took steps toward expanding solar in the Commonwealth by passing several bills that will allow for farmers to harvest the sun and will support community solar. Most of our legislators understand that solar energy offers more jobs for Virginians, as well as a safer and more resilient source of energy for the Commonwealth.
- Solar jobs in the United States have increased at least 20 percent per year for the past four years, and jobs have nearly tripled since the first Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.
- One in 50 new U.S. jobs were in the solar industry.
- Nine percent of solar workers are veterans, compared to 7 percent of the total U.S. workforce.
- Employers surveyed expect to see total solar industry employment increase by at least 10 percent in 2017.
- Solar offers wide-ranging career opportunities and is a highly diverse field, offering great jobs for women and minorities.
The recent passage of SB 1393 (Electric Utilities; community solar pilot programs), SB 1394 (Small agricultural generators), SB 1395 (Permit by Rule Modifications, PBR) will help our state and move toward increasing the amount of solar jobs for Virginians. The Commonwealth still ranks very low in comparison to other states, coming in at 33rd for solar jobs per capita and a ratio of solar worker to overall workforce mix of just 1 in 2,600.
While waiting for Governor McAuliffe to sign the new legislation, SolUnesco posted: “We are filled with optimism when we think about the future of energy in Virginia. The following conditions will continue to propel an open and dynamic market for solar – strong and growing demand, political awareness of the job growth and investment potential, and a sufficient local industry base. We need to enable entrepreneurs to build innovative businesses that can develop a skilled Virginia-based workforce. Through a locally grown workforce, local innovation and entrepreneurial hunger, we will capture the economic benefits and job growth here in Virginia.”