Arizona No. 3 in U.S. for solar industry jobs
Arizona ranks third in the U.S. in the number of jobs related to the solar industry, with nearly 5 percent of the nation’s solar workers residing in the state.
The report, released Monday by the Solar Foundation and Green LMI, showed Arizona has about 980 businesses dedicated to the industry, employing 4,786 people.
That puts Arizona behind only California and Colorado and makes the state one of the leading job creators in the industry, which totals 100,237 workers in the U.S. That’s up from about 93,000 last year.
Click the image above for info on the Top 5 states for solar jobs.
The jobs report shows a continuing trend of job growth in the industry, officials said.
“The Solar Foundation’s jobs census ... shows that we employ more than 100,000 Americans,” Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said at this week’s Solar Power International trade show and conference in Dallas. “And no industry in the country is growing faster than solar. Our industry is made up of 5,000 American companies … most of them small businesses. Over the last year alone, PV installations have grown by 69 percent. That’s 40 times faster than the rest of the economy.”
While national figures were released last month, the Solar Foundation study marks the first time these numbers have been broken down by state. The analysis was done by Cornell University from data collected by BW Research Partnership.
California leads the nation in solar jobs, with 25,575, or roughly a one-quarter of the U.S. total. Colorado, which is home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is second, with 6,186 solar workers.
Arizona benefits from good natural conditions for solar as well as economic incentives designed to lure manufacturing businesses and supply chains to the state. In the past two years, companies including First Solar Inc. , Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., Power-One Inc. , Rioglass and Gestamp Solar have either announced they will locate manufacturing in the Valley or started up operations.
The growth in solar comes as Arizona seems to be slowly losing jobs in various other high-tech sectors. According to a study released earlier this month, the state lost 1,300 tech jobs in 2010, leaving a total of 105,600.
Arizona’s largest high-tech workforce is in the semiconductor industry, with 18,900 jobs. Solar would fare well in the survey, coming in with about half as many employees as space and defense systems manufacturing, which has 8,700 employees, and four times as many as photonics manufacturing, which has 1,100.
Michael Neary, executive director of the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association, said the survey results aren’t surprising, but he did expect the number to be higher when factoring in industries from business services to law firms that have expanded into the renewable sector.
“There’s a lot of other companies that go into making the solar industry,” he said.
On the installation side, Arizona’s solar industry has been driven by utility incentives that have footed part of the cost of rooftop solar systems. Those incentives have been scaled back over the past two years, but along with that has come a huge drop in the price of solar panels, which this year is down between 30 and 35 percent. That means the incentive money can go further, Neary said.
Mara DeFilippis, founder and board member of the Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce, said the incentives have been a great help, and the survey shows the kind of impact they have had on the industry.
“We have quite a few incentives that are going away, and I hope those incentives continue at the federal and local levels,” she said.