In an economy plagued by high unemployment and slow growth, the solar industry continues to experience healthy expansion with an optimistic future. A recent jobs census shows that the solar industry employs more than 100,000 Americans, double the number since 2009. This group is more than are employed in either steel production or coal mining (not including transportation and power plant employment).
The U.S. solar industry is made up of around 5,600 companies. Of those companies, Real Goods Solar is one of the leaders, having installed almost more residential photovoltaics than any other integrator in the U.S. In fact, Real Goods sold the first retail solar panels in the U.S., back in 1978. The company is now a customer-proven solar provider with over 112,000 customers, including both off- and on-grid.
Another bright spot is that the solar industry is creating jobs when many others are cutting jobs or inching along. The solar industry in the U.S. increased its workforce by 6.8% from August 2010 to August 2011. That is a growth of nearly ten times faster than the overall economy. During that same time period, fossil fuel electric generation reduced its workforce by 2 percent.
The solar power industry is now the fastest growing industry in America! It is growing faster than wind energy, faster than telecommunications, and, thank goodness, it is even growing faster than the mortgage foreclosure industry. Solar, even in the toughest economic times, is creating jobs faster than the rest of America.
More good news is that the U.S. is now a net exporter of solar products. This means that we export more than we import, even to China. The U.S. currently exports $2 billion worth of solar products every year. Of course, we are using solar at home in the land of the red, white and blue, also. We now have enough utility scale, large commercial and residential solar installations to power more than 630,000 American homes.
The U.S. is projected to become the world’s largest solar market by 2014. Despite what you may hear from political ideologues or read in the news, Americans want more homegrown, renewable, clean energy. They want it not only because it will make the air they breathe cleaner, but because they know that competition for their money is a good thing and that economic growth will come with the continued growth of a homegrown solar industry.