Solar energy jobs growing in U.S. and California, study says
One in every four solar energy jobs in the United States is held by a Californian, and growth in the clean-tech industry is burgeoning nationwide, a new study said.
In August, California had an estimated 25,575 of the 100,237 solar-related jobs nationwide, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2011, scheduled for release Monday by the Solar Foundation, a research and education organization in Washington.
The total for California was four times greater than the runner-up, Colorado, with 6,186 solar jobs as of last summer.
California ranked first in the nation for generating electricity from both photovoltaic solar panels and concentrated solar power systems that use mirrors to focus the sun's energy to create steam to run turbines, the study said.
"This report shows that the solar industry is not only creating green jobs across California but that the industry is forecast to continue growing at a much faster pace than the overall U.S. economy," said MIchelle Kinman, a clean-energy advocate for Environment California. "California industry and policymakers have a tremendous opportunity to build on this solid foundation and make solar a centerpiece of the state's energy policy."
Nationally, employment in all parts of the solar industry -- including manufacturing, installation, residential, commercial and large-scale power generation -- grew 6.8% in the 12 months prior to August, the study said. Overall U.S. job growth was less than 1% for the same period, it said.
Growth is expected to accelerate by 24%, creating 24,000 jobs over the next year, based on a survey of solar employers.
The industry's momentum is expected to continue despite bad publicity it received from a political scandal surrounding the bankruptcy of Northern California solar panel manufacturer Solyndra. The Fremont-based company recently closed after getting a $535-million federal loan guarantee.
"We have to look beyond the failure of one company and see the tremendous success that's occurring here," said Arno Harris, the chief executive of Recurrent Energy, a San Francisco solar developer.
Solar, added David Hochschild, vice president of another Fremont solar panel maker, Solaria Corp, "is on the cusp of playing a large role in mainstream markets."
Here's the census' list of the top 10 states by the number of solar industry jobs:
1. California 25,575
2. Colorado 6,186
3. Arizona 4,786
4. Pennsylvania 4,703
5. New York 4,279
6. Florida 4,224
7. Texas 3,346
8. Oregon 3,346
9. New Jersey 2,871
10. Massachusetts 2,395
-- Marc Lifsher
Photo: Solar panels on the roof of a Fontana warehouse in 2008. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times