January 15, 2015. This article was originally posted in The Washington Post by Matt McFarland. Click here for the original article.

 

The U.S. solar industry continues to expand, with its workforce growing by 22 percent in the past year, according to a report the Solar Foundation released Thursday. Since 2010 solar employment has almost doubled from 93,000 jobs to 173,807.

“It’s just really indicative of a very strong, increasingly mature, increasingly specialized and consolidated and global industry,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of the Solar Foundation.

Almost 90 percent of the new solar jobs in 2014 came in the installation sector. Americans are turning to solar power for environmental as well as economic reasons. The costs of solar panels have fallen dramatically, and third-party financing and leases have made switching to solar power even more appealing.

“That has made it a no-brainer for a lot of people to go solar,” Luecke said. “If you can get solar installed on your roof for zero down and pay less than what you’re currently paying your utility and not have to worry about maintenance, it’s a pretty easy sell.”

The report did caution that solar employment may slow or shrink in 2017, as a 30 percent federal tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of 2016.

The Solar Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to increasing understanding of solar energy. It received 12 percent of the funding for the report from the solar industry. The study was based on data gathered from 66,986 phone calls and 25,655 emails to solar companies around the United States. It defined a solar employee as a worker spending the majority of his time on solar-related work.