Solar jobs map reveals leaders, laggards

The number of Americans working in the solar industry has doubled in three years. California now employs more solar workers than actors. Find out which states lead the nation.

A new interactive State Solar Jobs Map helps illustrate how incentives combined with renewable energy standards have helped solar shift from an immaterial job creator to an economic driver.

Solar is now beginning to rival and surpass more traditional fossil fuel based employment. For instance, a total of 119,016 people were employed by the solar versus 87,520 by the coal mining industry, according to May 2012 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. In California, there are more solar workers (43,700) than actors (32,300).

Take Arizona as an example. Like other states, the solar industry was an insignificant job creator less than a decade ago. Today, Arizona has more solar jobs per capita than any other state in America,  according to the interactive web-based tool launched today by The Solar Foundation. In 2012, there were 290 solar companies employing workers in the state and the ratio of solar workers to general employed persons was 1 to 306.

The state, which ranks second behind California in total solar jobs with 9,800 solar employees, has benefited from its plentiful sunshine and once-strong renewable energy policies, said The Solar Foundation (TSF).

However, that ranking is at risk of slipping because utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission recently rolled back key solar incentives for businesses and are now considering change to net metering, said TSF.

Even without incentives and pro-clean energy regulations, Arizona has the benefit of consistently sunny days. Still, other, less warm and sunny states also ranked high on the list.

For instance, New Jersey, another solar jobs leader, is ranked 9th in solar jobs per capita, has 426 solar companies and the ratio of solar workers to general employed persons is 1 to 802.  Oklahoma, which is ranked last in terms of solar jobs per capita, has a ratio of 1 to 10,667 solar workers to general employed persons.

Other highlights:

  • Top 10 states for solar jobs in 2012 were California, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York, Texas, Michigan and Ohio.
  • Pennsylvania, which has 4,000 solar jobs, has the greatest share of manufacturing jobs.
  • More Texans work in solar (3,200) than in ranching (2,140)

Graphic: the Solar Foundation

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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