Look at the jobs market for solar energy in the past decade and you will see a huge amount of time. Since 2010, The Solar Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the adoption of this renewable energy, conducts each year a "national solar work" to analyze the number of jobs in solar energy and the recording of the technology. .
"We have experienced tremendous growth year after year," says Andrea Luecke, CEO of The Solar Foundation, and 2016 was an exciting year. That was the year that solar energy counted more than twice as many people in the coal industry, and because 40 coal-fired plants would be phased out, 14,000 new megawatts of solar energy came online.
Two years later, however, and the growth rate in the solar industry has slowed. While total solar work has increased since 2010 from 93,000 to 242,000 jobs (an increase of 159%), total jobs in 2018 decreased by 3.2%, or about 8,000 positions, compared to the high figure for 2017. The previous year also saw reduced numbers from 2016.
At first glance, this may indicate a worrying trend for the industry. But for Ed Gilliland, senior director of The Solar Foundation, this is something of rapid breathing, rather than a sign of decay. Part of the delay stems from the tariffs that the Trump government applied to solar energy in early 2018. "In the run-up to last January's hearing, there was a lot of uncertainty on the market and many usability scale solar panel developers working on large projects with a long lead time delayed their projects," says Gilliland. "When we started counting in October, there was not much activity going on, especially in solar energy on a large scale." Talking about rates also affected figures in the census of solar energy 2017.
States with traditionally strong solar markets, such as California and Massachusetts, saw the largest job losses due to the number. But these losses are likely to be reversed, says Gilliland, now that China, the world's largest supplier of solar panels, has lowered the prices of its products, largely offsetting the impact of Trump's tariffs. Now that developers can purchase affordable installation equipment on a large scale, even at a lower price than before, the number of solar installations and jobs would have to rise again.
In fact, The Solar Foundation predicts that total solar jobs should increase by 7% to 259,400 by the end of 2019.
But Gilliland and Luecke argue that the focus on general solar trends also masks some important benefits at the level of the state. Twenty-nine states even saw a growth in jobs last year. In Florida, for example, the state regulators have just allowed residential solar energy in 2017. And the number of solar jobs in the state has since grown 1.769 to defeat Massachusetts and take second place behind California in the field of solar labor. And after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico has doubled the expansion of its solar market and is ready to add more jobs and capacity in the future.
In general, Gilliland says: "there is reason to be optimistic." The number of full-scale solar projects in the announcement, planning or contract phase is the highest it ever was. And 2019, he adds, is the last year that developers can benefit from the 30% federal tax credit offered for residential and commercial solar projects. "All you have to do to get the tax relief has, as it were, a shovel in the ground," says Gilliland, so it is very likely that many more small-scale projects – and the jobs that they perform – will pop up. before the year is over.