Installation and development firms drive US solar job creation, says IREC

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Installation and project development made up two-thirds of solar industry employment in the US last year. Image: Nextracker.

Installation and project development companies drove job creation in the US solar sector last year as the industry employed 255,037 workers, a 9.2% increase on 2020, a report has revealed.

The country’s solar sector added 21,563 jobs in 2021, with more than two-thirds of these at installation and development firms, according to the annual National Solar Jobs Census, published today by non-profit organisation the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).

Installation and development made up two-thirds of total US solar employment last year, followed by manufacturing (13%), wholesale trade and distribution (11%), operations and maintenance (5%), and others (5%).

Larry Sherwood, CEO at IREC, said that while the future remains uncertain in light of supply chain disruptions, trade issues and stalled federal policy, “there is potential for unprecedented job growth in the coming years if federal, state, and local leaders take action to expand clean energy use and address climate change”.

Sector2021 employment2020 employmentJobs addedPercentage growth
Installation and project development168,960154,61014,3509.3%
Manufacturing33,09931,0502,0496.6%
Wholesale trade and distribution28,97825,6633,31512.9%
Operations and maintenance12,53010,0772,45324.3%
All others11,47110,0731,39813.9%
Total255,037233,47421,5639.2%
US solar employment growth by sector. Figures from IREC’s National Solar Jobs Census.

At the state level, California continues to lead in the total number of solar jobs, with 75,712 in 2021, followed by Florida (11,761), Massachusetts (10,548), New York (10,524) and Texas (10,346).

Despite the growth, IREC revealed that 89% of firms surveyed last year reported difficulty finding qualified applicants, including 35% that said it was ‘very difficult’ and 54% reporting it was ‘somewhat difficult’.

When asked for the most significant reasons for difficulty hiring, half of solar firms noted competition and a small applicant pool, while 30% mentioned lack of experience, training or technical skills.

The industry segment with the highest level of difficulty was installation, where 39% of firms said finding qualified applicants was ‘very difficult’.

The report said the US solar industry still has more work to do to meet diversity, equity and inclusion goals, as fewer than one-third of solar firms reported strategies to increase female, ethnic or racial minority, or LGBTQ+ hires.

Women made up just under 30% of solar employees in 2021, well below the 47% of women in the US workforce, according to IREC.

Recruitment companies spoken to by PV Tech Premium earlier this year called on solar players to heighten their focus on workforce training and work to attract candidates from other industries to avoid a potential hiring bottleneck.

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