The American solar industry has seen rapid growth over the past eight years, a report released Tuesday shows.
The Solar Foundation’s annual jobs census shows a slight decline in employment over the past year, but the overall trend points to a much larger industry aided by plummeting prices.
The report shows the industry today employs 242,000 people, a 3.2 percent decline from 2017 that represents 8,000 lost jobs. The industry has still experienced an overall surge since 2010, when it supported just over 93,000 jobs, booming in size by 159 percent.
This also means far greater capacity installed: while just 929 megawatts were installed in 2010, that figure is estimated to have reached 11 gigawatts for 2018, a 12-fold increase in size. This is also paired with a drop in installation prices, moving from $6.65 per watt for a residential install in 2010 to just $2.89 per watt in 2018.
Costs are likely to fall even further, particularly for the end user — one analysis by UBS claimed renewable energy may drop in price to the point where boiling a kettle will “effectively be free” by 2030.
“A lot of the challenges we faced in the past have dissipated over time as the solar industry matures and people become aware of the cost competitiveness of solar,” Erin Noble, director of business operations for StraightUp Solar, which designs and maintains commercial installations, said in a statement.The price of energy and number of jobs over this decade.
The report links the annual decline in jobs to the Trump administration, which set a 30 percent tariff on crystalline silicone modules and cells on January 22, 2018, reducing five percentage points each year until 2022. This led to uncertainty, leading utility-scale projects with longer lengths to hold off and assess the effects on hardware prices. Utility-scale projects comprised just 39 percent of new deployments in the third quarter, where it normally represents around 60 percent....