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U.S. Solar Jobs Outpace Total Economy, Non-Profit Says

A worker installs photovoltaic solar panels in Arizona. Photographer: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg
A worker installs photovoltaic solar panels in Arizona. Photographer: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg

The U.S. solar energy industry added jobs at about 5.74 times the rate of the rest of the economy in the 12 months ended in September, according to a report from the Solar Foundation.

The industry added 13,872 workers, boosting the solar workforce by 13.2 percent to 119,016 at the end of the period, the Washington-based non-profit organization said in an e-mailed statement. The employment growth rate in the total economy was 2.3 percent in the same period, the group said.

“The solar industry has grown at significantly higher rates than most other industries,” Andrea Luecke, the foundation’s executive director, said in the statement.

Almost a third of survey respondents cited falling equipment prices as the primary driver of jobs growth. Solar panel prices have dropped 29 percent in the year to Oct. 15.

Other major factors that respondents identified include state requirements for renewable energy, federal tax incentives and third-party ownership of systems, which allow customers to incur little to no upfront costs for installation. Companies such as Sunrun Inc., Sungevity Inc. and SolarCity Corp., which filed last month for an initial public offering, finance installations for customers based on third-party ownership and have benefited from falling equipment costs.

The data, which comes from the organization’s third annual National Solar Jobs Census, has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percent, according to the statement. The survey is based on responses from more than 1,000 solar companies and analyzes employment along the solar supply chain, including 31 occupations ranging from manufacturing to installation.

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