There are an incredible 6.4 million people working in the energy industry in the United States, and a huge percentage of them are employed in clean energy. If you’ve ever purchased solar panels for your home or opted for a hybrid car, you’re doing more than saving money on utilities and gas. Clean energy is environmentally friendly and moves the country toward energy independence. And when you install solar, you’re also helping propel the creation of thousands of new clean energy jobs in America.
What does a career in clean energy look like? Some of the fastest-growing careers in this exciting industry include sustainable builders, wind turbine technicians, and solar panel installers. The clean energy industry is booming from coast to coast, and it’s changing the way the country looks at heating its homes and keeping the lights on. It’s also giving talented workers from all walks of life a new career path. Here are just some of the inspiring facts about the sustainable energy employment trends — and how solar panels are helping.
1. Clean Energy Jobs are Outpacing the U.S. Economy
According to a 2017 report from the Environmental Defense Fund, both solar and wind industries create jobs at a rate 12 times faster than the overall U.S. economy. In 2016, solar jobs expanded an impressive 17 times faster than the total national economy. That year, 1 in 50 jobs added in the U.S. were created within the solar industry.
As many workers in the country mourn the loss of coal jobs and other fossil fuel industry careers, clean energy is stepping in with a solution. Despite recent setbacks, including federal tariffs, solar panels are ever more popular. Between solar panels for your house and more efficient appliances — you can support this job boom all while cutting your own energy costs.
2. Almost 1 Million People Now Work in Renewable Energy
The number of people working in clean energy overall is about 4 million, and one of the fastest growing sectors is renewable energy. Renewable energy is any type of power without a finite limit, often tapping into natural resources like sun and wind. In early 2017, 777,000 people were working within the renewable energy sector. Solar energy is one of the leaders in renewable energy, and jobs grew almost 25% in just one year between 2015 and 2016.
What are these renewable energy employees up to? Building wind turbines for large communities, installing solar panels for your home, and working with geothermal systems are some of the most common things people in renewable energy do every day. More than half of all solar jobs relate to the installation of solar panel systems on homes and commercial properties and the building of utility-scale projects. What’s more, the wages in renewable energy tend to exceed those in other non-farm private sector jobs. That means that as the U.S. gains independence from foreign fossil fuels, it is also creating livable wages right here at home.
3. Solar Panels for Your Home Support Solar Storage Jobs
Clean energy jobs are moving beyond installations. In fact, energy storage and clean energy grids provided about 90,000 jobs as of 2016. Energy storage ensures that users always have access to their solar and wind energy on demand; if you’ve ever wondered how solar still works on a cloudy day, storage is a big part of the answer. Companies like Tesla are creating advanced solar batteries that can be installed along with your solar panels for solar-plus-storage systems. Most solar systems send their energy through an inverter that directs excess energy back to the grid (and offers an energy credit on utility bills). Solar storage allows you to keep excess energy at home instead of sending it to the grid.
The types of jobs you’ll often see related to solar storage include storage engineers, product developers, and electricians. Of course, home solar storage also needs installation, creating even more evergreen jobs. Many cities around the world are operating on mostly renewable grids at large, so the need for reliable energy storage will only increase as this trend grows in the U.S.
4. Efficient Cars are Helping Revitalize the Auto Industry
The U.S. auto industry was once looking quite bleak, but clean energy is helping breathe new life into manufacturing plants and giving drivers new energy-friendly options. In early 2018, Ford announced it was going “all in” on clean energy and hybrid cars and investing $11 billion into hybrid and electric models. This translates to more than a fleet of innovative cars on the road.
The 2017 Energy and Jobs Report found that jobs related to hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles made up the vast majority of jobs related to alternative fuels and transportation. In fact, 198,000 employees are supported by this sector of the clean energy market. As more car manufacturers invest in clean energy, new blue-collar and sales jobs may begin to boom as well. If you’re in the market for a new ride, consider an electric or hybrid model to show your support for clean energy jobs in the auto industry.
5. The Number of Women in Solar is Rising Quickly
Back in 2013, women held only 19% of solar jobs in the United States. By 2017, that figure had grown to 27%. Women make up more than half of the entire U.S. workforce, so there is still room to grow. Still, this exponential increase indicates a priority on inclusivity in the world of solar that is likely to continue. The Women in Solar Energy (WISE) non-profit strives to not only add more women and ethnic minorities to the world of solar, but also create an industry that leads the nation in policies that support families. With their help, the solar industry is poised to make huge strides in policies like fair maternity and paternity leave and generous sick leave.
The bottom line is that the face of the industry is becoming more inclusive and it’s happening fast. Whether you’re ordering new solar panels for your home, or inviting an auditor to come out and evaluate your system, it’s becoming more likely that you will be greeted by a diverse team of professionals.
6. Job Gains Aren’t Just Happening in Warm Coastal States
Solar is often associated with warm climates that are showered with more sunny days than they know what to do with. And it’s true that many warm climates remain at the top of the list when it comes to the adoption of solar. For instance, California remains the leader when it comes to solar installations and solar power usage. But did you know that many states throughout the country are giving coastal communities a run for their money? States typically not associated with alternative practices are making huge strides in clean energy and generating thousands of jobs as they go.
In Minnesota, for instance, there are 160 solar companies and more than 116,000 homes are powered by solar. The Star of the North state has more than 4,200 jobs in the solar industry, including manufacturing and installation. Colorado boasts an impressive 6,700 jobs in solar and Tennessee has 4,400 solar energy jobs. Other states with a growing investment in solar include Utah, Nevada, and Nebraska.The nation’s leader, California, has an incredible 86,000 solar-related jobs.
7. Veterans Make Up Over 11% of Solar Workers
A 2019 report shows that veterans constitute about 11.1% of the solar workforce in the United States. This figure is slightly higher than veterans’ overall employment in the country across all industries. What does that mean? Solar is a very welcoming industry for veterans and the solar community is making a concerted effort to transition service men and women into civilian employment back at home. Programs like Solar Ready Vets®, an effort by the U.S. Department of Energy, specifically aim to train outgoing members of the military for solar employment. In 2017 alone, 500 veterans were placed in solar jobs throughout the country via the Solar Ready Vets program. Veterans are doing everything from designing new solar grids to installing panels on homes and conducting maintenance on existing systems. Supporting solar jobs also means supporting your local veterans, including the the Southern California veterans that we hire at Semper Solaris!
No matter how you cut it, the clean energy economy is a huge source for jobs in the United States. The industry is racking up new employees as it improves the environment and the quality of life for future generations. There are plenty of ways for you to support this industry as it cuts down on harmful emissions and promotes the future of energy. One of them is to buy new solar panels for your home! Contact Semper Solaris today to find out more about how you can support the veteran community while you update your home’s energy grid.