Solar adds more US jobs than fossil fuel extraction

The results of a new solar employment census released today show the U.S. solar industry created more jobs than coal mining, oil and gas drilling, pipeline construction, and conventional power generation and supply together.

Conducted by The Solar Foundation and BW Research Partnership, the census showed the U.S. solar industry boosted its employment base nearly 22% to 173,807 jobs from November 2013 to November 2014, representing the addition of 31,000 new positions.

Installation jobs account for more than half of all U.S. solar employment, while manufacturing accounts for about 19%, followed by sales and distribution, and project development.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, oil and natural gas drilling added about 11,800 new jobs from December 2013 to December 2014, rising to about 216,000 employees, while coal mining shed 3,800 positions, declining to 76,100. Oil and gas pipeline construction added 8,100 new jobs last year to 140,700. Utilities – including power generation and supply, natural gas distribution and water systems – added 5,000 new jobs to 556,300.

Fossil fuel and utility industries added more jobs than the solar industry over the past year only when including service and support positions, according to government data.

“The solar industry has once again proven to be a powerful engine of economic growth and job creation,” said Andrea Luecke, president of The Solar Foundation, a non-profit research and education organization, in a statement issued this morning upon the report’s release.

“The solar sector has grown an extraordinary 86% in the last four years, adding approximately 81,000 jobs,” she added. “Our [census] findings show that one out of every 78 new jobs created in the US over the past 12 months was created by the solar industry – nearly 1.3% of all jobs. It also shows for the fifth consecutive year, the solar industry is attracting highly skilled, well-paid professionals. That growth is putting people back to work and strengthening our nation’s economy.”

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich both praised the findings of the report, which estimated the addition of another 36,000 solar jobs over the next year.

“The tremendous growth in the solar industry last year, including job growth that is outpacing the national average, is further evidence that we can clean our air and cut climate pollution while also growing the economy,” said Bloomberg.