How Jobs Are Being Created In A Rising New Industry
Dec 11, 2018
<h5>Solar energy has a bright future, and it gets brighter with every horrific storm that downs power lines and leaves communities in the dark for days on end.</h5>
<p class="wp-caption-text">FORBES -- Something remarkable happened in December 2016: the cost of installing and generating new solar electric power dropped to just $1.65/W. That’s below new generation from fossil fuel plants and smidgen less than wind-generated electricity.</p><p class="wp-caption-text"></p><p><br/></p><p></p> <p>That milestone meant the cost of solar electricity shrunk an incredible 70% over a decade. And expect more shrinkage as photovoltaic (PV) technology improves and commercialization scales up.</p><p><br/></p> <p>Price competitiveness is turning solar power into a rapidly expanding industry. You don’t need to look far to see the evidence. Solar panels are cropping up on our neighbors' rooftops, on commercial buildings, and now fill acres of land that commercial power companies own.</p><p><br/></p> <p>As you'd expect, it’s been a boost for jobs because a quarter of buildings have set up panels in the U.S. Employment in the field has escalated with the market growth in solar energy is up 25% in 2016 alone. The non-profit Solar Foundation estimated that pin 2016, some 260,000 people worked in the solar industry. The U.S. Department of Energy says more—374,000—but uses a different tack to come up with that figure. That’s actually more than the department’s estimate of jobs in natural gas-powered electric generation. Given current trends and anticipated labor efficiencies, the Solar Energy Industries’ Association has projected 401,000 solar jobs by 2021 and 581,000 by 2026. These are big numbers that few would have anticipated a decade or two earlier.</p><p><br/>
<br/></p> <p>One reason for high employment in the solar industry, is that—except for PV panel manufacturing—it's a very hands-on business involving sales, installation, maintenance, and professional services. Of these, installation creates the most jobs. So many, in fact, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified ‘solar photovoltaic installer’ as the fastest growing job category in the nation (closely followed by ‘wind turbine technician’), with actual numbers expected to double by 2026.</p><p><br/></p> <p>Better still, it's a job that appears immune to automation. Okay, someone at MIT or out in Silicon Valley may someday create robots smart enough and agile enough to properly install rooftop panels. But if they are that cluey, they'll be smart enough to demand coffee breaks, paid vacations, and (just imagine) parental leave! So much for the robotic threat.</p><p><br/></p> <p>Today's installers work for major corporations such as SolarCity (a Tesla subsidiary), Vivint Solar, for smaller local and regional firms, or act as self-employed independent contractors. All need practical knowledge of basic mathematics and safe working practices, familiarity with wiring and various hand and power tools, and the ability to design and manage small projects that meet the local code.</p><p><br/></p> <p>Fortunately, those skills can be honed fairly quickly through apprenticeships, community colleges, and private training companies. That puts the installer's job in reach of young people, veterans, and middle-aged workers displaced by automation. Annual pay for installers ranges widely from $30,000-$34,000 per year in low-wage southern states to $70,000 in some northeastern states. Individuals trained as electricians or licensed as general contractors can earn six figures.</p><p><br/></p> <p>Solar energy has a bright future, and it gets brighter with every horrific storm that downs power lines and leaves communities in the dark for days on end. Its market penetration is following the trajectory of older technologies that are now enmeshed with our lives that we take them for granted (electric lighting, cell phones, personal computers, etc.). Energy storage is a sticking point. There are some who debate about solar/wind energy being unreliable and causing more wear and tear on the energy utilities’ infrastructure leading to brown/blackouts So are local codes that tie-up projects in red tape, sometimes for three to five months. President Trump's plan to tax PV panels made in China is yet another. These, however, can be solved. Perhaps they’re merely bumps along a road leading to a cleaner energy future and millions of new jobs for Americans.</p><p><br/></p><h5>Thank you to our friends at <i>FORBES</i> for providing the original articles below:</h5>
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