California is home to nearly one-third of the nation’s solar industry jobs, with almost five times the number as any other state, according to a report from The Solar Foundation.
The energy research and advocacy group released their California Solar Jobs Census today with findings that the state was home to more than 47,000 solar jobs in 2013, up 3,500 from the year before. Approximately half of those employed work in installation.
"The California Census indicates that the future remains bright for in-state job creation, as the industry expects to grow another 20 percent and add nearly 9,000 new jobs over the next 12 months,” the foundation’s executive director and president Andrea Luecke announced in a press release. “With that level of optimism, it is clear solar power will continue to play an increasingly important role in California's economy."
Following California’s whopping 47,223 workers were Arizona with 8,558 employed, New Jersey with 6,500, Massachusetts with 6,400 and New York with 5,000.
California’s embrace of solar is most evident in the San Francisco Bay Area, where more than 21,000 workers are employed in the industry. Recent graduate Allum Ross Jr., 28, told the San Francisco Chronicle that solar’s promising expansion is what attracted him to his position at SolarCity in San Mateo.
"Solar is kind of a hot-button issue right now, and that geared me toward thinking about it," the Oakland resident said. "I like the fast pace of it. I like the growth prospects. A lot of companies don't have growth prospects, and SolarCity does."
The alternative energy industry’s ballooning employment in California is mirrored by the skyrocketing amount of solar energy produced. Last month, the California Solar Energy Industries Association announced that the state installed more megawatts of solar energy in 2013 than it did in the last 30 years combined. With federal funding coming in, that energy output is likely to continue growing.
“Just last week, Energy Secretary Moniz announced $30 million in federal funding for solar energy projects, nearly $2 million of which was directed to my Silicon Valley congressional district,” Rep. Anna G. Eshoo said in a statement. “Solar energy is a forward-thinking approach to our energy needs that will benefit our communities and our country with a tremendous return on our investments.”
State officials have long pushed for a foothold in the solar industry. In 2007, the state launched the California Solar Initiative, a ten-year program that offers upfront incentives to residential and commercial buildings that install solar panels. Most recently, state lawmakers moved to uphold net metering, a process that compensates solar customers for excess energy produced, until 2017. The decision followed a months-long battle between solar adapters and utilities companies that claimed non-solar users were saddled with paying for an unfair portion of the electric grid.