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Report: Solar Added 50% More American Jobs than Oil and Gas Drilling and Pipeline Construction in 2014

Pierre Bull, Policy Analyst, Air & Energy, New York City

There’s thrilling news out about job growth in the U.S. solar industry: Last year, the industry added more than 31,000 jobs, and solar jobs grew at rate of 21.8 percent, according to the new National Solar Jobs Census 2014, published today by the Solar Foundation and George Washington University’s GW Solar Institute. Compare that figure to 1.3 percent job growth for the economy overall, and you understand just how mind-blowing solar job gains are, with the solar industry hiring at a rate of almost 20 times that of the economy as a whole. This growth topped by almost 50 percent the combined job gains in the oil and gas pipeline construction sector [10,529 new jobs] and the oil and gas drilling industry [8,688 new jobs]. So here’s some good news to trumpet around: In America last year, one out of every 78 new jobs was a solar job. The industry now employs a walloping 173,807 of our relatives, neighbors and friends.

Thumbnail image for solar workers 2.jpg

Photo Credit: Lexey Swall

This huge growth comes thanks, in large part, to federal, state, local and utility policies and incentives that advance clean energy technologies. We’re talking here about the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar, state renewable energy standards, state net metering and interconnection rules, pro-solar local permitting practices, along with utility incentives and other policies. Together, they’ve spurred demand, sped economies of scale, and driven both investment in technology and competition in the marke

But let’s turn back to the good news from the National Solar Jobs Census. What it has to say about solar’s potential is pretty riveting. To begin with:tplace. Its critical we support their continued use–Congress’ two-week extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind power in December was almost a joke–and support and strengthen the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants, if we want more jobs in the solar power industry for Americans who need and want them.

  • Solar jobs are good jobs. Installers, the large majority of whom have only a high-school education, average $20-24 an hour. Manufacturing workers make almost $18. System designers earn between $30 and $40, and sales people earn $44 an hour, on average. Those figures are competitive with similar industries and can provide a middle-class standard of living.
  • Installers make up the greatest number of jobs in the industry: The companies they work for account for 55 percent of all solar jobs. Again, installers usually have only a high-school diploma. So solar’s continued growth can mean more jobs and more options for people who often have the fewest choices in the job market.
  • Solar continues to be a bright spot in U.S. manufacturing: While the U.S. manufacturing sector has grown by only 3.2 percent since September 2010, and, sadly, lost 1.6 percent of its jobs total in 2014, solar manufacturing continues to bloom. Solar manufacturers now employ more than 32,000, up almost 9 percent over last year and 30 percent since 2010.
  • The solar workforce is increasingly diverse: Last year, women made up 21.6 percent of the solar workforce and veterans close to 10 percent, both up from previous totals. The solar industry now also employs more Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders and African Americans.

solar workers 1.jpg

Photo Credit: Lexey Swall

The blistering pace of the industry’s growth is exciting to see. How many other sectors do you know that can achieve so many national goals at once? Solar creates good jobs for Americans at all levels of experience and education, while it reduces the risk of global warming, improves the quality of the air our kids breathe, saves us money on energy, and, as a new report out yesterday shows, provides profitable investment for homeowners, among its other benefits. That’s beyond impressive.

Today’s National Solar Jobs Census 2014 shows once again that as we support solar, solar supports us.


Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Jan 25, 2015

Since energy costs are overhead for all human activity it seems to me the most desirable source of power would require only one employee: to turn the switch on and off.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Schalk Cloete on Jan 25, 2015

Indeed. Statistics for the first nine months of 2014 found here shows that oil & gas added 3.005 quadrillion BTU while solar added only 0.096 – 31 times less. If solar actually added more jobs than oil & gas, it really speaks to enourmous economic inefficiency…

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Jan 25, 2015


How many quadrillion BTU of accumulated warming will the CO2 released by burning that oil and gas cause during the millenium over which it will stay in the atmosphere?

 Burning fossil fuels is a Faustian bargain.


Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Jan 25, 2015

Well if we were to agree that CO2 needs to be reduced and with the understanding that the wold only has so much money then it is logical to conclude that policy preference must be given to the source of generation that reduces CO2 most cheaply and completely. Wind and solar fail those critical tests:


Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Jan 25, 2015


I suppose we might also consider the quality of the jobs outside of pay. Most of those solar jobs were close to home, while those oil jobs entail husbands living in “man camps” away from their families and friends. And stories abound of the impact the oil boom has had on small communities. You don’t hear about solar having a negative impact on communities.

I’m sure both industies have their hazards, but oil workers are constantly exposed to noxious materials, risk of explosion and burns, heavy equipment, etc. I saw something on TV recently — 60 Minutes maybe — about some oil workers who had been badly burned.

And of course, 2015 will be another matter with the price of oil probably stuck below the breakeven for new wells in the U.S.



Spec Lawyer's picture
Spec Lawyer on Jan 26, 2015

And solar PV jobs will probably grow this year.


Oil & gas jobs? . . . There are gonna be a LOT of pink slips handed out this year.  

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Jan 26, 2015

Of course there are a lot of pink slips being handed out in the wind industry this year too.

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on Jan 26, 2015

Well if we were to agree that CO2 needs to be reduced and with the understanding that the wold only has so much money then it is logical to conclude that policy preference must be given to the source of generation that reduces CO2 most cheaply and completely.”

You’re right.

The next logical conclusion is that since the NRDC promotes only expensive and ineffective policies for reducing co2 emissions (i.e. mass stealth wind and solar energy production subsidisation) while it fights cost-effective policies to save the planet (i.e. fighting nuclear power), it must not want to reduce emissions. Indeed, if one hypothesizes that the NRDC wants to destroy the climate while protecting the interests of the fossil fuel industry, then all its advocacy activities become easy to understand.

Kyle Sager's picture
Kyle Sager on Jan 27, 2015


Kyle Sager's picture
Kyle Sager on Jan 27, 2015

Of course Republican state legislatures have deliberately eroded wind initiatives with pathetic hypocrisy by ignoring the never-ending tax-payer tab of over $30 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies (documented exploration, production, and consumption subsdidies)…conservatively…even as those very same lawmakers viciously torched the wind sector to pander to their fossil lobbyists. 

United States’ lawmakers selling-out to fossil fuels are thus single-handedly responsible for the wind sector layoffs.  Whereas Big Oil is entirely at the mercy and whims of Bentley-riding Sheiks 7,000 miles away.  Mass layoffs are the new face of Big Oil’s self-proclaimed “energy independence.”  Even their $30 billion+ in tax-payer-sponsored corporate welfare does not stop their pink slips from spewing forth by the thousands at the first hint of flagging profits.

Big Oil is not a stable long-term cornerstone for energy.  It grows more chronically boom-bust, erratic, unpredictable, conflict-ridden, as the decades pass.  This is the 2nd massive boom-bust price-gyration in less than 10 years.  You think tax policies are hard on medium-term business planning?!  Just hand the reigns for energy over to corrupt royal paedophiles in the Middle East.  That is what we do when we make Big Oil our economic cornerstone.  Time to move on.  Other clean energy sources are ready to  take over.

Germany’s grid-reliability went up measurably as it rapidly displaced over 40 terawatt hours annual of nuclear with wind and solar.  Germany is satisfied with the rapid results and is doubling down on clean energy.  Clean energy is more stable and predictable than fossil fuels at this stage.

NRDC Switchboard's picture

Thank NRDC for the Post!

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