The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently highlighted initial findings from The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) third annual National Solar Jobs Censusshowing that solar energy jobs have experienced strong growth in the U.S. over the past year, despite global economic challenges. The full National Solar Jobs Census 2012, with analysis of employment trends across the entire solar industry is scheduled for release on Nov. 14, 2012 by TSF, a nonprofit research institution located in Washington, D.C. Initial results from the 2012 census found that the solar industry now employs 119,016 Americans across all 50 states, having grown 13.2 percent over last year during difficult economic times across the nation. In 2011, the solar energy industry employed 105,145 workers, while 93,502 were employed by solar companies in 2010. Census participants named strong federal solar policy, such as the solar investment tax credit, as one of the most important factors driving growth of solar jobs over the past 12 months. Additionally, one-third of respondents cited the continued decline in solar energy prices as the primary driver of employment growth. State pro-solar policies, including renewable portfolio standards, and the popularity of new third-party system ownership models were other factors creating jobs. According to the 2012 census, solar job growth easily outpaced that of the overall U.S. economy, which expanded by 2.3 percent (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) during the same period. In total, the U.S. today has 5,700 megawatts of installed solar energy capacity, enough to power more than 940,000 households. The industry expects to nearly double its growth over last year, adding 3.2 gigawatts of solar power online by the end of the year and another 3.9 gigawatts during 2013. The Solar Foundation and BW Research, with technical assistance from Cornell University, used an improved version of SEIA’s National Solar Database and additional data sources to refine the methods used in the census and to reach more employers. As a result, the previously reported solar employment figure for 2011 was revised upwards from 100,237 to 105,145. As in past years, the survey examined employment along the solar value chain, including installation, wholesale trade, manufacturing, utilities, and all other fields and includes growth rates and job numbers for 31 separate occupations. The figures in the report were derived from data collected from more than 1,000 solar company survey respondents, yielding a low overall margin of error of +/-1.5%.
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