The sun is shining even brighter on the solar power industry in the US and across the globe. Although data is still trickling in, it is safe to conclude that 2016 will have been another great year for the solar world in two ways: Record numbers of solar panels were installed and more people were gainfully employed in the solar industry than ever before. In fact, some history was made.
While the homeowner’s decision to go solar is a personal one, the collective impact is felt far beyond each home, each neighborhood, and any state or locale. The choice to solarize provides the homeowner additional energy independence and lowers their energy costs. And to those who value it, that choice may also be a source of pride, knowing they had a small role to play in improving the lives of others.
Solar Energy Results Summary for 2016
This remarkable trend that is changing local and global economies can be seen by looking at a quick snapshot of two key growth measures from 2016:
The US nearly doubled the amount of added solar capacity in 2016 over what was installed in 2015.
In excess of 14,000 MW of new solar power was added, compared
to about 7,500 MW the year before. Using calculations by the Solar Energy
Industries Association (SEIA), what was added in 2016 translates to enough energy to power over 2.4 million homes.
That is a lot of capacity added in just one year.
This boom created many new jobs throughout the entire solar energy sector. From financing and development, to design, manufacturing, and installation, there was enough new employment to break records.
The workforce grew by 25% over 2015, according to a survey of workers and businesses (see illustration). By some estimates it exceeded 260,000 jobs, where 1 out of every 50 jobs added across the country was solar related.
Thanks to organizations like Solar Ready Vets, reports suggest that approximately 1 out of every 10 jobs for veterans is in the industry. Thanks also to organizations like Women in Solar Energy (WISE), solar businesses are establishing better practices that help women advance.
The Solar Power Market is Becoming Mainstream
Neither rooftop solar nor utility scale solar farms are fads or limited to early adopters at this point in history. Solar energy is now a vital part of the US economy. And it touches lives locally in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, too. With a big gain in 2016, Pennsylvania stopped a steady downward trend of solar related job losses in the last 3 years. While not yet returning to the heyday of 2012, the state’s solar energy sector may only be one or 2 years away from realizing a new peak. And while New Jersey experienced a net decrease in jobs in 2016, the market is still healthy enough to place the state in the top 10 for solar energy jobs. The state has an admirable solar power track record, with over 2 gigawatts (GW) installed up until now. Since the nearby states of New York and Massachusetts are experiencing new growth, it is possible some employees have moved from New Jersey to take advantage of the what they perceive as the next nearby boom.
Most important, the financial and employment strength of solar businesses shows the industry is now perhaps mainstream. Installed costs are down and utility prices are up to varying degrees. More than a decade of data proves that rooftop solar adds value to a home, both at appraisal and at sale. And now with such strong and continued growth, solar homes are becoming more mainstream. Just as buyers increasingly expect efficient appliances and even proactive energy conservation measures, so is a solar home becoming a more common improvement. Some buyers even seek out such homes.
Want to know more? Click on the button to the right to download our more detailed mini-white paper on this topic.