State Solar Job census celebrates solar's economic clout

The U.S. Solar Foundation has issued its latest State Solar Job census, revealing just how important the solar industry is becoming to the wider U.S. economy.

According to the census, solar pumps in more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy, employing 175,000 Americans in the process, and the sector is set to grow even larger this year.

The findings of the census attracted praise from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), with CEO and president Rhone Resch applauding the "very encouraging trends" revealed in the data.

"Solar energy continues to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S.," said Resch. "The latest-state-by-state breakdown of solar jobs nationwide not only shows impressive growth by our industry, but it also reveals encouraging trends."

Resch pointed out that solar-friendly employment opportunities are no longer restricted to the sunny states of the southwest, but have boomed in many East Coast states including Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Maryland.

"There has also been significant growth in the southern states of Texas, Georgia and Florida," added Resch.

Nationwide, SEIA and GTM Research estimates suggest that 20 GW of solar PV capacity is installed, which is enough to generate clean power for more than 4 million homes – the equivalent of powering the entire state of New Jersey.

State-by-state, California ranks highest for solar jobs, employing 54,700 people in the solar sector. In second place is Massachusetts, which supports 9,400 jobs, with Arizona in third with 9,200 jobs.

Unsurprisingly, Alaska is the last place an American should look if they want to work in solar, with fewer than 250 jobs in the sector recorded. North and South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska also have very little in the way of solar penetration, as does – a little more surprisingly – the southern state of Mississippi, which ranks 44th overall supporting just 400 jobs in the solar industry.

SEIA predicts the U.S. will add a further 20 GW of solar PV capacity over the next two years, doubling its current capacity. In 2014, solar helped offset 20 million metric tons of harmful C02 emissions – the equivalent of removing four million cars from the road.